Category Archives: Web 2.0 in Enterprise Learning

Gamification of the Learning Environment

 

gamification

Overview

Gamification of the learning online environment has caught on tremendously today with exciting game-like interfaces, interactions, quizzes and much more to facilitate and promote learning. Rewards and recognition in these learning games helps motivate the learners to participate and complete the learning program. Gamification can be applied to course content and the learning environment, as required. This article will focus on gamification at the learning environment (or the learning management system).

What is Gamification?

Gamification is defined as the basic application of gaming mechanics to non-gaming scenarios. The use of game mechanics, dynamics, and frameworks to promote desired behaviors is used in domains like education, marketing, politics, healthcare and much more. Analysts foresee it becoming a multi-billion dollar industry by 2015 (MacMillan, 2011).

Components of Gamification

Gamification elements are usually defined around the areas of teamwork, collaboration, and competition.

Simple “scoring” and ranking techniques like badges are used in most courses today. Other gamification techniques may include reminders via email or mobile learning apps that connect the users back to the learning system. Research shows that a learner, after having drifted away from a learning program, may be motivated to rejoin the program after seeing a notification about how their peers are doing in the program. A learning system that connects with social platforms used by learners, such as Facebook orTwitter, is popular among today’s learners.

Some of the main components of gamification are explained below.

A Well-defined Learning Objective

Having an objective is very important for an adult learner. Gamification should help a learner reach his or her objective. Games that do not help a learner achieve a goal or reinforce learning are ineffective and demotivating.

Points

Points are used in gamification to a great extent. Points can be accumulated in exchange for gifts or other rewards. A mechanism that assigns points each time a user performs an action within an LMS is a great idea to keep learners involved.

Levels

Multiple levels may be assigned to the learners based on their progress and achievement after completing certain activities

Timer

Gamification may also include a timer function on certain activities. The timer function motivates learners to complete the assignment by a certain deadline.

Progress Bar

A progress bar helps learners know where they are and how far they still have to go. Learners will be driven to take steps to 100% completion when a progress bar is displayed for certain actions.

Leaderboards

Leaderboards are one of the major features of games. Leaderboards are defined on the Gamification Wiki as “a means by which users can track their performance subjective to others. Leaderboards visually display where a user stands in regards to other users. They are implemented on sites to show which players have unlocked the most achievements. The desire to appear on the Leaderboards drives players to earn more achievements, in turn fueling deep engagement.” Leaderboards drive performance and give learners a strong sense of community.

Rewards, Badges and Certificates

Motivational tools like rewards, badges and certificates keep a learner interested and engaged. Learners are, therefore, encouraged to do better in exchange for rewards and badges as a proof of their success. Having a real-world reward helps translate virtual success into real-world value for learners. A scoring system that is linked to the actual participation in an E-Learning program will help learners get a competitive spirit. A badge for E-Learning can be directly connected to a point system.

Recognition and Acknowledgement

Learners may be recognized for their accomplishments or contribution within the learning environment. This recognition may be automated by the system, for example, the learners’ names and pictures may be featured on the learning portal or website. In addition, recognition from peers and experts within a community may be even more motivating for most individuals.

Social

Social connectivity is a powerful engagement tool in today’s times. Introducing social networking as part of gamification in an LMS is a great way of keeping learners engaged. Gamification elements that take advantage of social networking include sharing scores, badges, and statuses to the major social platforms. Social networks can be used to recommend content and even entire courses to co-workers and peers; post reviews of courses, and host discussions about course content in the form of comments as well as directed questions.

Gamification in a Learning Management System (LMS)

When learners first log in to their LMS, they may not have any idea about gamification and how gamification features work. As they gain more familiarity with the LMS user interface, they begin to get more skilled, engaged and educated about the gamification features. Initially, many learners may not go beyond the ‘Novice’ level due to lack of interest in the LMS or content with found within the LMS. Getting such learners engaged with the LMS, learning process and content through gamification will surely help them become masters!

The process of gamification in an LMS includes:

  • The learner logs into the LMS and sees a message explaining the benefits of the learning programs. Learners are asked several questions and then understand how ‘gamified’ eLearning will help them
  • Learners are given a tour of the LMS and its gamification features
  • The LMS tracks all learner activities like login details, profile edits, social activity, formal learning, contributions, participation in discussion forums and so on. Learners are given a chance to earn more rewards or points while learning online. For example, changing the profile picture may give points. New eLearning technical standards and protocols like Experience API (xAPI) can be successfully used to track various learner activities at the LMS and course levels and can help implement gamification features
  • A progress bar encourages learners to view their current status and helps them move toward completing a particular level to earn additional badges
  • Rewards, points, badges or certificates are awarded as per the activities or lessons completed and may be displayed through visually exciting ways within the LMS interface
  • Email notifications and mobile push notifications may be used inform users about their progress and invite them to participate in the learning activities
  • Gamification encourages competition and cooperation amongst learners. Rewarding learners for their contribution, achievements and participation is truly motivational and engaging to them.

Summary

Many studies in gamification have shown that the mechanism of a game increases the involvement of users while stimulating their active attendance. Having participants actively involved, and not mere passive recipients of content, is one of the most important challenges of conventional learning modes. Inadequate engagement of the learners with the learning management system has resulted in dropouts, failures, and lesser interest of learners in the learning program.

Gamification has proved to increase engagement and motivate a learner to do far better. What’s more, it enhances qualities such as diligence, originality, and resilience. However, gamification can only provide tools, and those tools must produce results that are worth the investment. The process of gamification in learning must give students comprehensible and actionable tasks with immediate rewards instead of vague and unclear long-term benefits.

 

How to Set Up a Successful Online Learning Business

Online Learning Business

The internet has provided us with many things, one of which is an online platform where people get ongoing learning. A successful online learning business can provide people with unlimited learning opportunities to expand their knowledge.

There are a number of steps which have been proven to work. Setting up a successful online learning business involves:

a) Creating your web presence

Because your online learning business will be run through the internet, you need to make sure that your online presence is felt. Creating your web presence involves the following:

  • Create an attractive and functional learning portal. The portal created should be in line with your business, expertise or your content area. As a business, you want to make your website as attractive and as professional as possible because the same website will be used to market your services.
  • Brand your learning  portal. Unique branding entails incorporating relevant images, colors, logo and styles to your named portal. This helps to distinguish your portal from the others.
  • Create a unique domain name for your web portal. Ideally, the domain name is the same as or a variant of the business name. This makes it easier for users to locate your business.
  • First impressions do matter. Therefore, ensure that your website is as attractive as possible. Work with graphic designers and visualizers to style your web page and make it exciting.
  • Subscriber growth can only be achieved if you keep your users. Create forms and subscription areas that allow people to sign up. Once visitors have shown interest by signing up, keep them informed. Newsletters are one way of keeping them alerted.
  • As you build a list, create a learning eCommerce catalog. The catalog should be directed towards highlighting the value proposition of each of your learning products.

b) Publish a mobile learning App

The mobile user population has immensely grown in the recent past. People are always on their mobile phones exchanging messages and socializing. To build a successful online learning business, you need to tap into this market. This can be done by creating and publishing a mobile learning App.

The content generated should be created through modern content authoring systems which can deliver content seamlessly to all devices. This way, people can easily gain access to your materials.

Make your content easily accessible by allowing your App to be downloaded and used even when the user is offline. Other mobile technologies that can be leveraged include touch and voice based interfaces.

Push technology can come in handy when it comes to educating your learners and ensuring that there is a continuous engagement between the learner and the online learning business.

c)  Create your eLearning and blended learning content

Analyze your learners or audience and content and define your learning curriculum and project implementation plan.

Because it’s not easy to create good content for your online learning business, consult an instructional designer to help define learning objectives, storyboard eLearning, audio and video scripts and help you select appropriate graphics and other useful multi-media assets.

Make your eLearning content compelling by adapting a story-telling format, taking a role-playing form or incorporating learning games and simulations. The content can also be made interesting by using videos and audio narrations. Professional voice talent can help you polish audio tracks.

Because the interaction is mostly online, come up with an interactive way of engaging your audience. Engage your audience by creating eLearning content with multimedia elements including video and synchronizing audio to graphics and animated content.

Attach supplemental documents and references to eLearning course modules to support learning objectives.

Assessments can be an important validation that learning has occurred. Therefore, take time to create assessments using different question types such as true/false, essay, single correct, multiple choices, fill-in the blanks, or drag and drop, among others. To further challenge your learners, combine simple online assessments with problem solving scenarios, and simulations with test or games that challenge their thinking and motivate them complete their assignments. Combine eLearning modules and assessments to create seamless eLearning course structures.

Create a schedule for your classroom training session(s) and allow learners to subscribe to the sessions. Set up virtual classroom training sessions where your learners can interact with each other and the experts online and synchronously. That’s just the beginning of creating a blended learning curriculum and courses.

Simply put, blended Learning can be described as a learning program where more than one delivery mode is being used with the objective of optimizing the learning outcome and cost of program delivery. In other words,

Blended Learning focuses on optimizing achievement of learning objectives by applying the “right” learning technologies to match the “right” personal learning style to transfer the “right” skills to the “right” person at the “right” time.

For example, a blending of self-paced and collaborative learning may include review of important literature on a regulatory change or new product followed by a moderated, live, online, peer-to-peer discussion of the material’s application to the learner’s job and customers.

Blending Formal and Informal Learning

Most learning in the workplace occurs in an unstructured form via meetings, hallway conversations, or e-mail. A blended program design may look to actively capture conversations and documents from unstructured learning events into knowledge repositories available on- demand, supporting the way knowledge-workers collaborate and work.

Today, employees and learners are comfortable and familiar with content aggregation systems like Facebook, Wikipedia, Quora, and Google+. An effective learning system will provide similar functionality so that workers and learners can participate in communities of knowledge that span the breadth of the business or organization.

Blended learning content can be generated in many ways. Let your instructional  audience, learning objective and content analysis guide your media and learning modality selection – to help create the right blend.

It has been established that blended learning promises better learning results, compared to single modality offerings.

d) Internet marketing

The last step in creating a successful online learning business involves marketing your products. You can market your online learning business using a number of online marketing strategies. They include:

  • SEO marketing – Optimizing your site for search engine ranking involves discovering and using the keywords visitors use to find content like yours; knowing the questions they are asking, and making sure your website can answer visitor questions. SEO activities help your site rank well in organic search results.
  • Email marketing – this technique helps to generate leads and keep your users informed. You can send your subscribers ads, business requests or even solicit sales. All in all, email marketing helps in building trust, loyalty and brand awareness.

Social media marketing – in this particular strategy, different social media channels are used to generate traffic and create awareness. Social Media marketing uses channels such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Blogs. Blogs can be used as an online channel to advertise your business and leaning resources and related topics while the other three platforms can be used for posting updates. For a blog to properly relay the intended message, posts should incorporate images, text and valuable links to other blogs or webpages.

Summary

Businesses rich in knowledge can capitalize their valuable assets by offering paid training and online learning.  Many businesses already own learning content in the form of slide presentations, white papers, and other resources.

Instancy provides an easy-to-use system that can both turn these information assets into online learning courses, and provide a platform to sell and deliver the material to learners all around the world.

Please visit Instancy.com to see our end-to-end platform for creating a successful online learning business, providing an innovative and compelling learning environment, and publishing a mobile learning app.

Benefits of Experience API (Tin-Can API)

tin_can_api

Technology standards are critical to the success of eLearning industry and projects so the learning content and data is interoperable between different systems. Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) is a widely accepted technical standard for online learning that was developed by the US DoD’s Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) initiative in the late nineties.

What is SCORM?

SCORM essentially defines the relationship between course components, data models, and protocols so that content “objects” are sharable across systems that conform to the SCORM model. The various versions of SCORM offer the benefits of packaging content and exchanging data at run time.SCORM has been designed for online learning between a single user and the learning system. It offers standardization of learning content packaging and its delivery. The latest version, SCORM 2004, also offers a sequencing and navigation option. However, SCORM is a reference model and not really a standard and it has many limitations. Tracking of users is limited with SCORM and it can only handle web-based lessons delivered through a web browser, limiting the possibility and flexibility of learning through mobile or other modern devices.

The Advent of TinCan API or xAPI

More recently, ADL developed TinCan API (now known as Experience API or xAPI for short) under Project Tin Can to provide a better and more improved platform for online learning. xAPI facilitate data interoperability between learning systems, enterprise systems and more dynamic, flexible, and engaging content without many of the limitations of SCORM or other learning specifications.With xAPI, there has been a great shift and flexibility in the way online learning works. Content resources can reside anywhere and do not need to be located at the same domain or server as the Learning Management System (content delivery systems). So you can have learning resources on your mobile (for example, as a downloadable mobile app) or any website. Additionally, it is now possible to report multiple scores, obtain detailed test results, and also have improved security of data. Experience API can track any learning experience without a web browser or internet connection, opening up limitless possibilities for learning on the go.

Tracking of a user’s (or multiple users’) learning patterns or behavior is simple and quick with xAPI. Moreover, the tracked data is portable and the activity records can be stored in a Learning Record Store (LRS). This LRS can then be integrated with an LMS or other systems in the organization, making the learning experience more meaningful and quantifiable. In fact, the tracking capability of xAPI can include all learner experiences and experiential data can be easily collected from social media, job locations, classrooms, apps, performance tools, and knowledge bases, to name a few.

The blended learning and adaptive learning domains are gaining immensely by leveraging xAPI. xAPI can support existing SCORM use cases as well as enable use cases that were difficult to meet with SCORM. Mobile learning and access of content from anywhere is possible with xAPI’s dynamic features.

While Experience API (xAPI) is not the most comprehensive eLearning content and learning systems technical specification, but ability to communicate learner’s activities and experiences flexibly is a step in the right direction.

Responsive Design in eLearning | Delivering eLearning Content for a Multi-device World

responsiv

Would you like to deliver eLearning that only works on One Device or on Multiple Devices?

The New Rule is responsive eLearning design – “One version that works on all devices

What is “responsive design?”

When used about technology in 2013, “responsive” means that a program, website, or application works on any device you want to use, without any extra effort on your part. Since we started using smart phones, and then tablets, you as a user had to download different versions of a program to your phone, your tablet, and your PC. These different applications rarely worked exactly the same on each device. Sometimes, they behaved very differently. Sometimes, text was tiny, or images were too large, or you only saw the menu and not the content.

If it was a headache for you as a user, can you imagine what a headache it was for the developer? In addition to phones, tablets, and computers, developers had to create programs all over again for Windows, Android, and the Apple systems! Sometimes, a provider like Instancy had to keep track of NINE different versions of their software and eLearning content!

Authors developing eLearning content had similar challenges, making sure their e-courses were designed for the systems that learners used.

Now, Instancy has implemented intelligent responsive design, so that eLearning courses created on Instancy Learning Content Management System (LCMS) and delivered through the Instancy platform are offered in appropriate formats for the devices used by your learners.

HTML5:  not a magic bullet

HTML is one of the languages that makes the internet work. It controls how words and images are displayed on your browser screen.

HTML5, the newest version of this language, allows web-based applications like Instancy to work seamlessly across all your devices. Interactive content provided inside these applications, such as audio and video files, will play on your device the same way it plays on your laptop.

However, taking advantage of the responsive design features supported by HTML5 is not as easy as flipping a switch. Responsive design suggests that content be displayed appropriately on the target device, not simply resized for a small screen. For example, Apple devices won’t display Flash-based animation, so content delivered by Flash must be provided in a different form.

This is an enormous change, although our end users may not ever notice that their applications work better across the multiple devices they use to access mobile learning.

We in the eLearning industry have already seen the benefits. However, we think that it is the Instancy Authoring Tool users who will really notice and be able to benefit from responsive design as implemented in Instancy. Thanks to HTML5, learners will be able to enjoy interactive eLearning content across all their devices. The door is open for the next revolution of our industry: the mLearning (for Mobile Learning) revolution.

Enable Dynamic Content Resizing

Figure 1: Enable Dynamic Content Resizing

To begin taking advantage of what HTML5 and Intelligent Responsive Design can do for your course development work, use the new Enable Dynamic Content Resizing option within the Instancy Authoring Tool. Thanks to this new option, your eLearning content will be automatically resized to fit any of the multiple devices your learners use.

We have already implemented the new technology in the learning management system (LMS). All devices (PC/Laptop browser, Tablet or Smartphone) can access the LMS. Once your course is uploaded to the catalog, it will be accessible on all devices without any additional work on your part.

In the image below you can see how the catalog page adapts to desktop, iPad and iPhone

Responsive Design for Learning Management System Interface

Figure 2: Responsive Design for Learning Management System Interface

 

Example of Responsive Design

Figure 3: Example of Responsive Design. 

Notice in the figure above that the image is automatically sized correctly for the screen, rather than cropped the way it might have been before HTML5.

At Instancy, we will continue to add HTML5-based innovations throughout our system.  If you’d like to learn more, please contact us at info@instancy.com If you simply want to stay on top of what we’re doing, sign up for our newsletter at the link to the right.

 

Mobile Learning Native Application Development Update

The Instancy Learning Platform has been updated and released as a native app (Instancy Mobile Learning Native App) that can be installed on mobile devices, in both Android and Apple formats.  This app connects with a cloud-based server and allows users to manage registration, browse a catalog of learning and performance support content, their My Learning, Profile, and Progress pages.

Instancy Mobile Learning Native App appears on the device app menu just like any of the other apps your users have downloaded and installed.
Instancy Mobile Learning Native App appears on the device app menu just like any of the other apps your users have downloaded and installed.

 

The app will work the same way on tablets.

The Instancy Mobile Learning Native App for smartphones and tablets offers several advantages over the mobile web application (Instancy learning platform is also available as a mobile web application).  The Native app allows users to download a complete course package and access the content on their device.  This gives them the freedom to use the content without the bother of slow download times if they have a low-bandwidth connection or are using their device while travelling, when they can’t connect to the internet.

Similarly, users with limited data plans do not have to worry about overages or throttling.  They can download the digital learning content on a wifi connection, and consume it at their leisure without additional data downloads.

Learners can receive push notifications on their mobile device, letting them know that a reminder, course update, or other message is waiting for them when they connect to the server the next time.

Instancy Mobile Learning Native App can deliver many types of content:
 

  • Learning Modules – including interactive multimedia content that support one or more learning objectives
  • Learning Tracks – collections of one or more Learning modules, together with its associated references, assessments, resources, and sometimes scheduled events, both in-person and virtual. Learning Tracks are equivalent to “curricula”
  • Media Resources – audio and video files that support your learning modules
  • Documents – such as MS Word files, spreadsheets, presentations, and PDFs
  • References –links to external learning resources such as other apps, videos, audios, eBooks, web pages, etc.
  • Events –either (i) a physical class where attendees meet face to face at a specified location or (ii) a virtual class or webinar. (Events can be synchronized with the calendar app on the user’s device.)
  • Assessments –tests or quizzes used to evaluate Learner’s skill or knowledge
  • Performance support content or knowledge nuggets that can help learners make use of what they have studied on the job
Instancy Mobile Learning Native App showing list of documents associated with a Learning Track.  Most major document file formats are supported.
Instancy Mobile Learning Native App showing list of documents associated with a Learning Track. Most major document file formats are supported.

 

This pair of screen shots, on a phone and a tablet respectively, show some of the detailed video based content from within a learning module.
This pair of screen shots, on a phone and a tablet respectively, show some of the detailed video based content from within a learning module.

 

More examples of the different page types within learning modules that can be accessed through the Instancy Mobile Learning Native App.
More examples of the different page types within learning modules that can be accessed through the Instancy Mobile Learning Native App.

 

Examples of assessment content delivered through Instancy Mobile Learning Native App.  The device’s touch-screen and keyboard features are enabled in this app, allowing the user to respond to the questions.
Examples of assessment content delivered through Instancy Mobile Learning Native App. The device’s touch-screen and keyboard features are enabled in this app, allowing the user to respond to the questions.

 

Including brief assessments into the course material helps users verify that they have mastered the material in real time.  If they discover that they don’t understand a concept, they can review the material before stumbling onto the next modules.

Courses and Content can be downloaded

The advantage of the native app is that it allows users to download all documents, media, learning and performance support content to their device.  This means that they can use it when the internet is not available.  It also allows users who have limited data plans to download content when they are connected to wifi, and use it when they are not within reach of wifi, without incurring additional data charges.

In the native app, the user’s “My Learning” menu shows a download button.
In the native app, the user’s “My Learning” menu shows a download button.

 

If the internet is not available or is blocked when a user logs in, only those courses that have already been downloaded will be accessible through the native app interface.

The app will track the learner’s course progress while the device is offline, and then sync the next time the device connects to the internet.

Offline progress is synced when the device connects to the internet.
Offline progress is synced when the device connects to the internet.

 

Similarly, any updates to the course material itself will be held for the next available time the device connects to the internet.

Learning Administration

 

Learning Administration
Learning Administration

 

Course progress from the native app is aggregated the same way progress from active on-line users is collected.

Conclusion

 

The new Instancy Mobile Learning Native App allows Learning Administrators to provide just in time learning and performance support to all of your learners and knowledge workers.  Furthermore, the easy-to-use administration controls allow you to personalize the learning content for each user or group of users.

Future updates will allow course designers to take advantage of geolocation and voice activation features on the devices and incorporate this functionality into learning and performance support content.

Learners who spend the bulk of their time at a desk using a PC and learners who commute or travel and who can only access learning content outside regular work settings have the same access to all of the content your enterprise offers to them.

All from an integrated One Mobile Learning App – Instancy Learning Platform Native App.