Tuesday, June 26, 2012

eLearning vs. mLearning: Why I've been hanging in the eLearning Camp

I thought I understood mLearning. Or at least I thought I did--because categorizing mLearning is like me trying to call myself spiritual. I might know what it means, but everyone around me has a different definition. For a long time, I'd been thinking about mLearning as "learning for a mobile device." And I waved mLearning aside as being "too cool." I have spent my time working for organizations that are at the trailing edge of the technology curve, so why would I worry about mLearning? eLearning has meant deployment of training on specific company pcs, not an ipad or a cell phone. Plus, I have had a lot of assumptions about mLearning--for example, designing learning for a cell phone is much different than designing learning for a tablet, so how could they be lumped together?
Yet if I had followed the experts in this, I would have come to the realization sooner that mLearning is not about deployment on a phone--it's about flexible and responsive design.  
I've read two post's lately that have really affected my thinking on the issue: RJ Jacquez' recent post, Here's how Adobe Captivate 6 could have been a Game Changer for mLearning and Claire's Dashe & Thomson article suggesting: Mobile Learning: CHANGE YOUR WAYS OR YOU ARE DOOOOOMED! (Via Connie Malamed, the eLearning Coach). Both articles really got me thinking about the true meaning of mLearning.
Perhaps I'm over simplifying things, but the difference between eLearning and mlearning seems to be in the approach, not the design:
        My over-simplified comparison of elearning & mlearning
With this approach of "acknowledge learning will be deployed on multiple devices" mLearning is not about cell phones or tablets, instead, it's about letting go. Maybe we should have called it dLearning (for device-based) versus fLearning (for flexible)!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Receiving Learner Feedback: The Angry Customer

This was one of the slides the users liked....
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet with some future users of the "Angry Customer" eLearning module that I've been working on. And once again, it reminded me how important it is to receive feedback as early/often as possible. As I sat down with two end users, they immediately tweaked my scenarios to make then as realistic as possible, and to include more policy ideas. I am grateful for their help, as they will be testing my  prototype once I have revamped it a bit. We had a lot of conversations about how to design the learning module in a way that promoted the ideal behavior (or performance), as well as some negative examples for me to build on.
And then there were ideas that needed revising!
Not only was this meeting a lot of fun, the engagement and feedback also promotes buy-in from the users. I'm excited to take their ideas and build upon them. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Prototyping an eLearning Project: The Angry Customer

Thanks to all of you who gave me feedback on my Mapping an eLearning Project post. It's nice to know that I am part of a support system. On that note, I've been working on creating a prototype to take to my "learners" and my stakeholders to review and test. I want to make sure my idea of interactivity matches the expectations of my audience. I also want to make sure my scenario will actually reinforce the actions I want the staff to take. In other words: Will staff behavior change after using this eLearning scenario? I have already brainstormed with my SME, but I want to get a user perspective before I move forward. At this moment, I am using Articulate Storyline to create this module, although I plan to use Captivate and ZebraZapps for others. Additionally, I have some concerns with various software, as I know ahead of time that the users are not allowed to download Flash on their computers. The organization does not have an LMS either, so I will have to publish the scenarios in an accessible way.
One of the branches that I created.
I've added some of the background slides to test them.
So let's get to it: One of the reasons I am enjoying Storyline is that it really connects with the creative and imaginative side of my personality. You can begin to see the fun I'm having with just a small screenshot of the Storyview. Branches and triggers are easy to add, and the illustrated characters are dynamic. Here is an example of the prototyping idea:
I have used very basic shapes as placeholders.
Later, I will add the backgrounds, like the example below:
This was created using Tom Kuhlman's approach to ungrouping clip art!
(Obviously I need to resize the computer!)
I will wait to create more backgrounds until I have tested the interactivity and script of the project. Even though I have a limited number of backgrounds for this project, it still takes some time to create each one. It makes no sense to do that until the prototype is approved by the very people who will be using it--the learners

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Mapping an eLearning Project: The Angry Customer

My Mapping technique: butcher block paper + post-its,
markers, + Pencil with a good eraser!
As I am developing my portfolio, I've chosen one topic to develop into various eLearning samples. If all goes well, I will be donating my work to a local public organization. This post is one of the first I will be writing to support this process. I've been playing with various ways to map out an eLearning project. My current favorite is to use butcher block paper across my desk and to supplement that with post-its, colorful markers and more. We all use different processes to support our creativity, but this works well for me. After playing around with various techniques, I found that it worked well for me to show each branch in a different color. 
From the map above, it looked like I had tons of scenes, but it's really
only eight that can be customized.
I can then work on giving my characters
a unique personality--or rethinking their importance
The nice part about doing it this way is that I can see how many actual "scenes" I need to create as well as how many characters I need. This brainstorming works best for me if I am developing a more linear scenario. If I am using one or two basic screens, and developing most of the interactivity into those, I would use a different concept. What ways do you use? Next post: Prototyping an eLearning Project

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

eLearning Design Process

My Mosaic Learning Design Process is in Beta!
I am intrigued about the methods behind creative and effective eLearning. It seems as though everyone I admire and respect uses some sort of iterative process. Allen Interactions uses SAVVY, Cathy Moore suggests Action Mapping and many others are beginning to use Agile Design. This got me thinking about how important it is to develop learning through a technique that incorporates tweaking and testing along the way. For all of you (current and former) classroom teachers out there, have you ever designed a lesson and had it work perfectly the first time you taught it? I never did. Good instructional designers might argue that my lesson probably had some holes in it. I have to agree--it did, and testing it in front of a group of students was the fastest way to figure out the holes. When designing great eLearning (or any learning, in fact), if testing and iterations can be worked into the process, the client will have a much better idea of what the product will look like in the end. 
I've been playing around with an approach that I like to call Mosaic Learning Design. It came about when I realized that when I design a learning event or product, my process isn't always linear. In the background, I am moving toward completion, but all around that progression, there are spatters of thoughts, activities, and re-imaginings that amp up the end product. I didn't mean to call it a Mosaic process--when I began to put my ideas down on paper, it originally resembled a flow chart. As I began to brainstorm in different colors, however, it turned into a mosaic. Some of this has been tested, but I won't deny that it's in Beta right now! I also won't disagree that many of these ideas sound familiar because all of the leaders in this industry have proven that this is a good way to go. Mosaic Learning Design owes them a great debt.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

eLearning Goes Mainstream?

Mainstream eLearning
I was messing around on my computer last night, and I came across a great example of self-directed, interactive eLearning from a surprising source: InStyle Magazine! What started off as a brief curiosity soon turned into an obsession to become a superstylist to the stars. Although I didn't agree with some of the style choices, this I soon found that I had jumped into this "game" and had been "playing" for at least twenty minutes. When I woke up this morning, I realized I had a better idea of how I should match my purse to my outfit. What was it about this simple game that made it successful? I think it followed most of my eLearning rules (stolen from Allen Interactions): Context, Challenge, Activity, Feedback). Yes, the context was a bit vague (become an "Fashion Pro!"), but the feedback was excellent, and the level of challenge was perfect for me--every time I thought I had figured out the answer, the "game" added another subtly like texture. Try it and see what you think!