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Learning Tech 2012 Conference News January 27, 2012

Posted by Eric Matas in News & Events.
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Conference News!

Learning Tech 2012 Image and LinkThis April, in Chicago, I will be speaking about  mlearning design and strategy at Learning Tech 2012. I love Chicago. It’s a city with an energy that makes events especially invigorating. I hope to see you there, April 23-25.

For more information, I contacted Courtney Green in New York to ask her about the conference:

Courtney, we know I will be at the conference representing eLearning Weekly Magazine, who else will attendees have the chance to meet, and what companies will be represented?

We have a great line-up of speakers, including Kevin Munson, Chief Learning Officer from Sears Holdings Corporation, Andrea Franklin, Educational Instructor, FedEx Custom Critical and Kacie Walters, Global Knowledge Management Lead, GE Healthcare plus many more!

Who should attend this event in Chicago?

Those who want to launch their learning to the next level and hear from innovative speakers to determine how you can elevate learning and maximize results. The event is focused on improving learning strategies with educational technologies across the corporate world, plus a special focus day for K-12 and higher-education professionals.

Are there any sessions that will share specific and practical information that attendees can take and implement right away?

We have a number of workshops, interactive sessions and case studies that will allow attendees to instantly apply! Including:

  • Case Study: Integrating the iPad to Improve LearningMichelle Burke, Director Learning & Development, Sears Holdings Corporation
  • Strategies for Effective Mobile Learning – Eric Matas  Editor, eLearning Weekly Magazine
  • Workshop A: Interactive “Learning Station”- New Tools and TechnologiesCraig Weiss, CEO, E-Learning 24/7

Cool, I love Craig. He’s terrific. How can people register or find out more details?

Please register by visiting www.learningtechevent.com. You can also email me, Courtney.green@iqpc.com, or call 1-800-882-8684.

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Make eLearning for the iPad for FREE July 14, 2011

Posted by Eric Matas in eLearning Tools.
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I feel some guilty pleasure when other trainers and elearning developers become jealous of my elearning app for the iPad. Because the Mac iOS doesn’t support Flash, many of my colleagues haven’t been able to take advantage of the best elearning tool ever: the iPad.

My app did not cost that much ($7,000 developed in 2010 and $4000 for upgrades in 2011). Still, even those costs are not readily available to many training teams. So, I will share my first efforts making elearning for the iPad. It still works very well and gets “oohs and ahhs” even though it is simple and FREE.

There are many tools for doing the small bit of work involved, but I will focus on the easiest method I know, using the word processing program on my computer. It’s three steps and then you are elearning:

  1. Make a simple document in Pages.
  2. Export as an epub file.
  3. Put the epub file in iTunes and sync your iPad(s).

Learners can view the elearning module in iBooks, the free app from Apple. The reader app is the key, really. It has interactive functionality built in, so you just need to focus on good content.

Step 1 — Pages. Pages is the word processing program on a Mac. It is simple to use, like Word. Simply add text, images and video. Formatting must be simple so the epub file can adapt to various sizes when viewed. Still the content can look great, and with multi-media, it reads more like a digital magazine than a book. It helps to make a visual cover page (your page 1) that looks like a book cover. Play around with headers and styles — because these will help the learner navigate.

Step 2 — Epub. In Pages, just click Share > Export and choose the epub option. Check the box that makes your first page the cover art. You will have an epub file in seconds. If you get errors, it is probably related to formatting that epub files don’t support. It is best to keep the formatting simple — let iBooks do the work of making your module look great.

Step 3 — iTunes. On a Mac, just drag the epub file you just saved onto iTunes and then sync your iPad. Like Forrest Gump, that’s all I have to say about that.

In iBooks, your module will have an interactive table of contents — created from your headers and styles. The table of contents works as nicely as a menu in a Flash elearning course. Learners can change fonts or font size to their liking, read portrait or landscape, and bookmark and annotate the module. The video content plays right on the page or can be expanded to full screen.

I’ve had success with small, three-page mini-books. That’s three pages in the word processor — once in iBooks, the page numbers vary for each learner depending on  their font choices and orientation they prefer for their iPad. Learners found the content engaging and appealing, and as elearning it was refreshing to have a mini-book instead of the typical rapid elearning thriller. I’ve also made longer modules, around 10-11 pages. They were well-received, but I made ample use of white space, and I wouldn’t recommend pushing much more than that. I don’t have data on it, but the iBooks format seems to suit concise elearning efforts. If readers can page through within 15-20 minutes, they seem pleased. If you have more content, make a separate epub module and call it a sequel.

The Return of Code March 14, 2011

Posted by Eric Matas in eLearning Tools.
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So much work has been done to take code out of the equation. We’ve become a WYSIWYG generation with all the convenient tools for web and elearning development. This WordPress blog you are reading is a perfect example, and the proliferation of blogs in the past 5 years is a direct result of WYSIWYG tools.

These DIY tools are getting better and better, and there are more and more of them. Still, I see coding making a comeback.

Why is code going to become more important and popular? Three reasons:

1. Cookie Cutters Not Cutting It

Rapid elearning tools offer anyone the capability of publishing flash modules, SCORM or AICC compliant. But, for many, the templates and functionality have replaced instructional design. Although modules  can look amazing, integrate multi-media, and offer interactivity, designers and developers find the tools guiding the development: what the tools can do replaces what designers set out in storyboard. Coding allows for custom work within the rapid tools.

2. The Many (Inter)-Faces of mLearning

The most intriguing mobile device, the iPad, doesn’t support Flash, demanding app development or web-apps developed for many devices. Since the competition is finally showing up, Motorola Xoom and Samsung Galaxy, for example, web-apps might be ideal so any device learners have can display the elearning. Native apps, though, offer the most in user experience. Organizations might want to invest in a specific mobile device so communications and elearning can be created for that device.

3. The Web Teaches HTML

Just google HTML or how to code and you will see what I mean. The web is full of HTML tutorials by passionate coders. From simple HTML to more advanced CSS code, you can find help for any stage of your coding needs. If you are a beginner, you have some easy reading to do. If you are getting better, you’ll want some HTML Goodies. I also imagine elearning teams will hire coders to come in and create some HTML templates that the team can copy and paste and edit for variety. It seems far easier to edit existing code than to come up with it in the first place.

Top 5 eLearning Skills for 2011 February 27, 2011

Posted by Eric Matas in eLearning Careers.
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What are the skills you need to land an elearning job?

Working in elearning taps into many skill sets. Designing or developing elearning  requires experience in training and project management as much as audio and video production.

I focus here on what I think are the top skills for elearning now, in 2011. These are skills that will show up on job descriptions where they list job criteria, requirements or experience. More companies will have one or two elearning people handling all the elearning duties for their team. These small groups of elearning designers and developers will have to do it all–manage the projects and handle graphics, video, narration and all the various software, including some sort of LMS. They will have a small budget to outsource some work, but even those dollars might be reallocated for new software or video equipment, which could make the elearning duties easier.

Top eLearning Skills 2011Given that trend, I hope readers aren’t surprised when I leave instructional design off my list. Soon, elearning job descriptions will not even mention instructional design or ADDIE, as they almost always do now. I know managers include those references in job descriptions now simply because the last document did. Instead, when looking to hire, I think managers are going to care more about these job skills, my top skills for elearning in 2011.

1. Graphic Design

Photoshop has been a constant in elearning job descriptions for a while. But today developers can create graphics in PowerPoint 2010 or online using free tools like Aviary, Pixlr or Splashup. LinkedIn has regular group discussions on where to get the best free and paid images for elearning. Graphic design requires good online research skills. Developers of elearning must know a bit about image sizing and file sizes and be able to edit disparate images so that they look like they belong in the same module. Tom Kulhmann’s blog offers many tutorials on editing graphics.

2. Video Production

Cisco experts predict 90% of the internet (consumer IP traffic) will be video by 2013. Hiring video production companies will still be popular, but elearning teams are going to need to handle their own video production to meet deadlines and budgets. With video production software available at incredible, affordable prices, and high-quality digital video cameras and microphones available cheaply for both rental and purchase, teams are capable or setting up a studio, running a production, and editing videos for their elearning needs. Companies like OpenSesame are preparing for more video by creating a SCORM video player.

3. Rapid Development

The tools I see most are Captivate and Articulate. Newer online tools are emerging and gaining some popularity, perhaps because the software can be accessed from anywhere, not just a company computer that has software loaded on it. Who knows, maybe Articulate and Captivate will offer their tools online too. Knowing how to get around many tools is wise. Once you start getting good using two or three of these authoring tools, they all seem pretty intuitive. These rapid development tools are where video, graphics, narrative and text come to get ready for an LMS or a web or SharePoint deployment.

4. Social Media

Social learning is still finding its place in corporate elearning. The one, two or three people on elearning teams will need to be up to speed on microblogging, status updates, and integration. Some elearning tools are already integrating social media for social learning use–like the LMS software, TOPYX. Although companies and training managers may not yet have discovered how to implement a social learning plan, they will be looking for elearning employees to take a lead in this area.

5. Mobile Deployment

Being able to push elearning modules to mobile devices will continue to gain in importance. Many have expressed reservations about whether training can really happen on a mobile phone, no matter how smart it is. The larger iPads and emerging competition are catching everyone’s attention for sales use and elearning deployment. Since Flash is not supported on iPads, the rapid elearning tools have been useless. I expect that new tools like AppAuthor Pro will become popular since developers can make elearning modules on the back-end and push them out to the app they only have to pay for once.

Hot Topics in eLearning for 2009 December 4, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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Tony Karrer posted a list of the trending hot topics in eLearning for 2009, based on stats from his eLearningLearning.com site. Nothing is too surprising, but it’s very helpful how Tony linked to some of the more popular articles and blog posts related to each topic.

Below are the hottest trending topics we saw in 2009, but be sure to visit Tony’s full list to see even more great info.

Hot Topics in eLearning for 2009

  1. Twitter
  2. Social Media, Social Networks, Social Learning, and Informal Learning
  3. Google Wave
  4. SharePoint
  5. Video
  6. Mobile , Mobile Learning and iPhone
  7. Changes in Design and Instructional Design and our Roles
  8. Webinars and Virtual Classrooms

Any predictions on what we’ll see as the hot topics in 2010?

Heading to the Corporate University Summit May 16, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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I will be heading to Chicago on Tuesday for the Corporate University Summit, a corporate learning and development conference. I will be presenting a session on mobile learning on Wednesday, and I plan on spending the rest of the time making connections with peers and absorbing as much I can from the other presenters.

Here are some of the sessions/presentations that sound most interesting to me:

If you will be attending the conference, please say hello! If you will not be in attendance, let me know if you have questions about the conference or any of the presentations. I will be happy to get answers and report back.

Read more about the Corporate University Summit

Basic mLearning with BlackBerries January 10, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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I’ve spent the past few weeks figuring out how to design and deploy content that can be accessed on BlackBerry phones. I’ve run into some obstacles, but overall it’s been a good experience. I thought I’d share my adventures here and talk about some of the speed bumps I encountered (to hopefully save you some time and frustration).

I’ll assume you…

  • Have done up-front analysis and determined your organization has a need that can be addressed by mobile learning (mLearning)
  • Have an audience that primarily uses BlackBerry phones
  • Have a basic level of technical knowledge, including the ability to write HTML (or use an editor like Dreamweaver)

Heads up, Mac users

The BlackBerry tools and simulators are for Windows only. The only way to run them on a Mac would be to use a PC emulator like VMWare Fusion or Parallels.

Download a BlackBerry simulator

If your entire audience is using the same model of BlackBerry, you’re in great shape. If they’re using a variety of models, you’ll have a little more work to do. Start by downloading and installing the BlackBerry simulator(s) matching the model(s) of your users. Go to the BlackBerry Development Tools and Downloads page and click Download the BlackBerry Device Simulators. Fair warning, you may have to update your Java (JDK) version; the installer will prompt you if the update is required. Once you install the simulator, go ahead and open it and take a look around.

Here’s a screenshot of the BlackBerry Storm simulator:

BlackBerry Storm simulator

Browsing the web using the BlackBerry simulator

In order to browse the web using your BlackBerry simulator, you’ll need to download and install the BlackBerry MDS Simulator. Go back to the BlackBerry Development Tools and Downloads page and click Download the BlackBerry Email and MDS Services Simulator Package. Install the software, and again, you may have to update your Java JDK.

Once you have the MDS Simulator installed, you should be able to follow these steps to browse web content on your BlackBerry simulator:

  1. Start the MDS service by going to Start -> Programs -> Research in Motion -> BlackBerry Email and MDS Services Simulators 4.x.x -> MDS
  2. Open the BlackBerry simulator by going to Start – Programs -> Research in Motion -> (Your model number)

Troubleshooting the MDS Simulator

The MDS Simulator caused tons of headaches for me. Here was the biggest issue: I would start the MDS Simulator and a command window would quickly open and then close. After tons of research, I found that it was throwing an error (due to a Java issue) and then immediately exiting. The device simulator would start fine, but I was unable to use the web browser to browse web sites (ex. CNN.com or local content). It was very frustrating. After much research, our team figured out how to fix the issue. In case you run into the same problem, give this a shot:

  1. Open this file: C:\Program Files\Research In Motion\BlackBerry Email and MDS Services Simulators 4.x.x\MDS\run.bat
  2. At the beginning of the file, after the call setBMDSEnv line, add this code: set JAVA_HOME=”C:\progra~1\Java\jdk1.6.0_11″. Make sure this path matches your version of Java on your machine.
  3. (Re)start the MDS Simulator.
  4. Open the device simulator.
  5. Try browsing a web site – you should be in good shape.

Now that you’re up and running…

You can browse web sites now, so you’re ready to start developing content. I highly recommend using a tool like Dreamweaver to develop your content. It’ll help you write clean code that is more likely to display well on a mobile device like a BlackBerry. Once you’ve built a few HTML pages, upload them to a server and then browse to the pages using the BlackBerry simulator. At this point, you’re in great shape! Make modifications to your content, design, code, etc., and then refresh the page in the simulator. Repeat until you’re happy with the results – and then begin testing on real devices to make sure everything still looks good. Finally, email the link to your users so they can access the content.

That’s it!

I’m curious to hear about your experience. Let me know if you give this a shot, and please ask questions, share problems, etc.

DevLearn 2008 – Day 3 Recap November 14, 2008

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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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 1 Recap November 13, 2008

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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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.

DevLearn 2008: A Case Study of Mobile Learning at Qualcomm October 17, 2008

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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I will be presenting Session 702: Virtually Anywhere: A Case Study of Mobile Learning at Qualcomm, at DevLearn 2008 next month along with a co-worker, Barbara Ludwig. Here’s a quick summary of what we’ll cover in this session:

Mobile technologies are transforming the way we work. But are we harnessing their potential to transform the way employees learn?

Discover how Qualcomm Incorporated, a digital wireless technology company, is extending the reach of training outside the classroom, using a variety of mobile devices including cell phones, iPods, and eReaders such as the Amazon Kindle. See how Qualcomm uses mobile technology to deliver learning resources employees need when they need them, and turns those "in between," otherwise wasted moments into micro-learning experiences.

We will look at how Qualcomm overcame challenges in implementing mLearning, such as designing for disparate platforms and devices, integration with the larger corporate learning infrastructure, security, and keeping ahead of rapidly changing technologies. In this session, we will conclude with a look at new trends in technology such as Web 2.0, social collaboration and networking, games and simulations, and location awareness, and we will examine their potential for mobile learning.

We’ve learned some great lessons while working with mLearning over the past several months. (In fact, Qualcomm was doing mLearning waaay before I got there.) I’m anxious to talk about our experiences, and I hope I can help others save some time and/or frustration. Stop in and say hello before, during, or after my session if you’re there. I’m glad to chat about anything (m/eLearning related or not) and meet new folks.