jump to navigation

Usability in eLearning November 25, 2008

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
4 comments

In looking back at all the posts I’ve written, I’m surprised I haven’t mentioned usability and usability testing more. Usability testing is a critical process that too often gets skipped due to lack of time and/or resources. I decided to gather some of my favorite resources related to usability and present them here. I hope they save you some time, effort, and money. (And please chime in if you have recommendations!)

But first… Why is usability important in eLearning?

UsabilityFirst.com has a great explanation of why usability is important:

From the user’s perspective usability is important because it can make the difference between performing a task accurately and completely or not, and enjoying the process or being frustrated. From the developer’s perspective usability is important because it can mean the difference between the success or failure of a system. From a management point of view, software with poor usability can reduce the productivity of the workforce to a level of performance worse than without the system. In all cases, lack of usability can cost time and effort, and can greatly determine the success or failure of a system. Given a choice, people will tend to buy systems that are more user-friendly.

A-ha! So if we develop learning materials/solutions that aren’t usable, well, you get the idea. And usability doesn’t just apply to online courses; it applies to job aids, performance support tools, learning 2.0 tools, and pretty much anything else that we introduce to our learners. We should at least take the time to do interviews and small focus groups with actual users before rolling anything out to a mass audience. Thankfully, there are great tools out there to help you take things a step further. Take a look at the resources below. You may want to consider creating a more formal usability testing strategy when deploying learning solutions (if you don’t have one already). Your learners would probably appreciate it. 🙂

Usability Resources

I’m new to eLearning – Where do I start? November 18, 2008

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
5 comments

I held a Breakfast Byte session at DevLearn for people new to the eLearning field. Here are some miscellaneous tips and tricks I provided during this session to help get people started off on the right foot:

  • Know that the term “eLearning” has an ambiguous definition. Personally, I consider eLearning to be the intersection of learning and technology, where we help people do their jobs more effectively and more efficiently. But you’ll probably hear at least 25 other definitions floating around out on the web. 🙂
  • The best thing you can do at conferences (like DevLearn) is meet people and exchange contact information. Make an effort to meet experts and meet newbies. Stay in touch with these people after the conference. Learn about them and learn from them.
  • Don’t be intimidated. There are hundreds of other people that are brand new to eLearning.
  • Assemble a list of eLearning blogs. Read them often. Just ask around for suggestions. Get set up with an RSS reader, like Google Reader, and begin to read blogs on a regular basis. Our field has an incredibly active blogging community, which can also serve as a support group for you (see the next tip).
  • Start a blog about your eLearning adventures. Use blogger.com or wordpress.com to sign up for a free blog. Write blog posts on a daily or weekly basis. Talk about the successes (and roadblocks) you encounter. Trust me, you’ll see the value after a few short weeks. Blogging helps in several ways: First, it helps you reflect on your experiences and organize your thoughts. Second, you are putting your thoughts on display for other professionals to see (and they will chime in to give you feedback).
  • Become familiar with the eLearning Guild’s Research reports. You can find these on eLearningGuild.com. They are fantastic. Skim them to find what you need; you don’t need to read them in detail.
  • Always try eLearning tools before purchasing them. This applies to authoring tools, simulation tools, Learning Management Systems (LMSs), etc. Don’t be pressured into buying something unless you want it.
  • You can take several different paths in the world of eLearning. The main paths that stand out to me are: Media, Writing, and Programming. Select the path you prefer, and then surround yourself with individuals that offer the skills you do not have.
  • Contact me. I will do my best to give you a hand! (Just leave a comment below.)

Helpful web sites and blogs:

Good luck!

Corporate Learning Trends and Innovations 2008 November 16, 2008

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
Tags: , , , , , ,
add a comment

Arriving right on the heels of DevLearn, the free (and 100% online) Corporate Learning Trends and Innovations 2008 conference begins this week! The conference, which runs November 17-21, features some of the sharpest people in the learning and technology world. A quick glance at the agenda shows Jay Cross, Jane Hart, Harold Jarche, Tony Karrer, Clark Quinn, George Siemens, and many more. Very cool.

The goal of this conference is to "…explore new developments, track emerging opportunities, network with other learning pioneers, and deal with topics you don’t find at the conferences you have to travel to."

Check out these links for more information about the conference:

DevLearn 2008 – Day 3 Recap November 14, 2008

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

Today was the final day of DevLearn, and technically, it was only a half-day. I presented Session 702: Virtually Anywhere: A Case Study of Mobile Learning at Qualcomm, along with Barbara Ludwig. (The slides are below; I’ll try to get the handouts posted soon.)

Unfortunately, I missed the keynote by John Medina, author of Brain Rules. I talked with several people who raved about it, so I may have to pick up a copy of John’s book.

Because I wasn’t able to learn much new info today (I was a bit preoccupied with my presentation and getting to the airport on time), I will defer to two bloggers who did manage to post today. Surf on over to read Clark Quinn’s blog and Brian Dusablon’s blog for updates on Day 3 of DevLearn. And again, don’t forget the other DevLearn bloggers mentioned in this list.

While I liked all of the sessions I attended, I have to say that I enjoyed the people at DevLearn more than anything else. This was an incredible event for networking. I can’t even begin to list off all the people I met (my apologies), but please know that I enjoyed meeting each and every one of you!

Also, I can’t say "thank you" enough to Brent Schlenker and the rest of the eLearning Guild staff for putting on such a great conference. Your hard work definitely paid off!

DevLearn 2008 – Day 2 Recap November 14, 2008

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

I kicked off Day 2 at DevLearn by facilitating a Breakfast Byte session on DevLearn Live!, which is the collection of Web 2.0 apps we’re using regularly this week. Not many people showed up, but Wendy Wickham, Matt Wolf, and I spent the time well by discussing our current projects, our impressions of DevLearn, favorite technologies / tools, and more. It was a great way to start the day.

Next, I went to the keynote by Dan Roam, author of  The Back of the Napkin. Here’s a summary of my notes from the keynote:

  • We can solve nearly all problems with pictures. Once we start to think from a visual perspective, things become more clear.
  • Whoever best describes the problem is the one most likely to solve it.
  • Whoever draws the best picture gets the funding.
  • Always be thinking: “How can I explain this situation in a simple drawing or a napkin sketch?”
  • The more human your picture, the more human your reponse. The mind likes to look at pictures that map to the way we see the world.
  • Any problem can be broken down into six pieces:
    1. Who/what (Draw using a portrait)
    2. How much (Draw using a chart)
    3. Where (Draw using a map)
    4. When (Draw using a timeline)
    5. How (Draw using a flowchart)
    6. Why (Draw using a multi-variable plot / graph)
  • Southwest Airlines was started on the back of a napkin in Texas. Two entrepreneurs said they would create an airline that would fly between Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. They drew a triangle on a napkin to represent the flight pattern. They started simple and they succeeded. And if you fly Southwest today, you’ll see that they still print their flight routes on their cocktail napkins. Nice homage.
  • When it comes to visual thinking, there are three types of people: Black pen (people), yellow pen (people), and red pen (people). Black pen people will jump up and run to the whiteboard to draw their thoughts (that’s me). Yellow pen people say, “I can’t draw” – but they’ll eventually draw. Red pen people say, “I’m not visual. I’m not going to draw anything.” They’ll only get up to draw when they’re pissed off. 🙂
  • If you’re having trouble getting started on a blank canvas, JUST DRAW. Getting over the inital mark on the page is the hardest part. Start with ‘Me’ and ‘My problem’.
  • Need to sketch something on your PC? PowerPoint’s presentation mode provides a great drawing tool that most people don’t know about!

Here are the sessions I attended today…

406 – Managing Learning in a Web 2.0 – and Beyond – World (Lance Dublin)

  • Slides available here.
  • Lance Dublin is great at asking uncomfortable questions to get everybody’s minds thinking differently. If you attend one of his sessions, it’s very likely that he’ll put you on the spot for something. (Ex. “How do you define eLearning?”).  I enjoy the challenge.
  • Web 2.0 and so-called Learning 2.0 has caused us to re-examine how we learn, but has it really changed  us?
  • Lance argued that learning hasn’t changed, only technology has changed. If we look at how humans learn – how we acquire, absorb, encode, and use information – the core skills haven’t changed much over time. Sure, we have fancy new tools to help us organize the information, but we are still learning the same.
  • Lance believes there should be an area of learning called ‘non-formal’ learning. This is when people intentionally learn information in an informal way. (He states that informal learning takes place unexpectedly in an informal way.) It’s an interesting idea, and I bet the concept is easier for upper management to understand; informal learning has always seemed a little too relaxed for some people to see as valuable. Then again, this could all juts be semantics.
  • Lance believes the Learning 2.0 movement consists of these elements:
    • Rapid
    • Mobile
    • Immersive
    • Collaborative
    • Non-formal (rather than informal)

508 – Global e-Learning: Overcoming the Obstacles (Maarten Fleurke and Paul T. Liotti)

  • Admittedly, I didn’t stay through this whole session. The content was decent, but I didn’t see myself applying it any time soon at work (if ever at all). It was a bit more specific than I expected; I was hoping to get bigger-picture strategies for planning global projects. No worries, though. The room was packed and everybody seemed to enjoy the session.
  • Use qualified linguists for translations; don’t shortcut the process by using friends, family, etc. True linguists will be much less likely to make grammatical and spelling mistakes. (Plus, mistakes are expensive to fix, especially if audio or video is involved.)
  • There are no quick fixes when it comes to localization/ translation.
  • 30-45% of a course’s budget could easily go to voice talent and translation expenses (wow).

605 – Using Flash CS3 and AIR to Build Desktop Applications (Dan Carr)

  • Dan was a very laid back presenter, but he definitely knows his stuff. I liked his style; it was easy for me to tune in and absorb lots of great Flash / AS3 / AIR info from him.
  • Building a basic AIR app (desktop Flash app) is much easier than I realized.
  • Dan walked through an example AIR application that could write to an XML file on the desktop. It was simple and straightforward. I believe he will post his example files here, so keep an eye out.

I ended the night by having dinner with Barbara Ludwig. Now, time for bed. DevLearn is wearing me out!

DevLearn 2008 Bloggers November 13, 2008

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
5 comments

In case you’re not getting enough DevLearn 2008 coverage, here’s a list of awesome bloggers who are writing about their experiences here in San Jose:

Did I accidentally leave you off the list? If so – I’m sorry! Please add a comment with a link to your blog.

DevLearn 2008 – Day 1 Recap November 13, 2008

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
7 comments

Day 1 of DevLearn 2008 kicked off today with a great keynote from Tim O’Reilly (@TimOReilly), where he walked us through the Web 2.0 movement and how it has impacted learning and training. Here are some of the notes I took during his keynote:

  • We should always try to follow the “alpha-geeks.” These are the people who are constantly hacking and studying things in unconventional ways. They are often the ones who come up with the most innovative solutions and they tend to have the most fun. If we follow their fun stuff, it’ll usually lead us to innovation.
  • Tim started Make magazine and Maker Faire as a tribute to the alpha-geeks, and to promote their activities.
  • The idea of Web 2.0 was introduced to re-energize the tech world after the dot com crash. Web 2.0 was a renaissance that soon took on a life of its own.
  • Web 2.0 harnesses collective intelligence; this data is the new “Intel Inside.” Check out the O’Reilly book: Programming Collective Intelligence.
  • Web 2.0 is about finding meaning in user-generated data – meaning which may be hidden from plain sight.
  • Web 2.0 for the enterprise means turning your company data inside out for everybody to see (or paying a startup/vendor to do it for you).
  • Good quote: “The future is here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet.” – William Gibson
  • Tim also spoke about machine learning and patterns. He recommended A Pattern Language and Air Guitar.

So, given all these changes, how do we teach the right skills? Follow these steps.

  1. Follow your own pioneers and alpha-geeks.
  2. Turn them into mentors.
  3. Provide self-starters (tools) with access to the best online references.
  4. Show, then do, with reinforcement from small successes.
  5. Study success stories carefully, then don’t assume they are easy to emulate.
  6. Stop fondling the hammer and focus on the house.

I also attended the following sessions. I’ve included the notes I took in each session:

112 – Mobilizing Tests: Building & Deploying Assessments to Cell Phones (Robert Gadd)

  • Slides available here.
  • Why use mLearning? Because we always have our cell phones on us. On average, corporate workers will return an email within a 4-hour time span. The same workers will, on average, return an answer to a text message with 6 minutes.
  • OnPoint Digital’s mLearning system works with all major phone platforms (iPhone, Blackberries, and Windows Mobile). The system also allows people to choose their preferred modality for receiving communications (ex. by voice, text message, etc.).
  • The OnPoint Digital system looks impressive and it sounds like the cost is reasonable.

202 – Work Literacy – A Key to e-Learning 2.0 Success (Tony Karrer)

  • (After briefly meeting her at lunch, I was able to sit next to Wendy Wickham in this session. Very cool!)
  • Handout / slides available here: http://tinyurl.com/workliteracy
  • Things have changed drastically in the world of information systems. How can we keep up? Our brains are wired to seek out more information, but a barrage of information can ultimately reduce our IQ. We currently aren’t adapting well, given all the new information that is available during this day and age.
  • Darwin quote: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” We need to adapt.
  • For knowledge workers, work and learning are inseparable. We are always learning.
  • We are making a transition from information workers to concept workers.

309 – Learning 2.0 and Workplace Communities (David Wilkins)

  • Slides available here.
  • Case studies of ACE Hardware, Intel, Cisco, and more. All examples showed an overall community using social media, rather than the occasional blog or wiki.
  • The idea of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) is antiquated; we are all SMEs now. All of us can contribute useful information to the overall community.
  • As we use more social media, our roles will change to be social media architects, where we will build and nurture learning environments.
  • Using one-off tech tools does not a add up to a social media strategy. Using WordPress doesn’t make your organization “2.0.” A bigger view is needed to make sure you build up a community within your organziation that can communicate and function on its own.

A-ha! Moments of DevLearn 2008 November 12, 2008

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
6 comments

Did you learn something at DevLearn this year that opened your eyes? Did you learn something that could make your life easier or save you time?

If so, please add a comment to this post and share your thoughts. This will help us share our great experiences with those who couldn’t make it to San Jose this year.

So, what did you learn?

More eLearning Job Resources November 4, 2008

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
5 comments

Building upon a previous blog post, I’ve listed a bunch more great resources to help you find a job in the field of learning and technology (a.k.a. eLearning). Happy hunting!

Do you have other resources to share? If so, please add a comment!