When Steve Met Rachel

poster

I recently bumped into my university time friend Rachel at a conference in Toronto. I remembered her as a shy girl from old days, but it looked like she had transformed into a very confident business professional over the years. She handed over her card to me which read that she was a sales head with a well-known eLearning company.

We chatted for a bit, touched upon how life had changed as we have aged, strategies for staying healthy, challenges with everyday stuff, daily activities, hobbies, and of course, work.

Just as I was about to end the conversation with a formal sounding promise to keep in touch, she said something that piqued my curiosity. She said she would be in New York the week after, to meet a customer, who apparently is my biggest competitor called ‘Medical Communications’ and as a matter of fact, a well-known name too in my industry.

Just a little background, I own a digital communications company based in the heart of New York City. We have a special focus on the pharmaceutical sector, with most global pharma brands as our clients.

“What would an eLearning development firm do for a medical communications agency?”

Rachel gave me a confident smile and said, “quite a lot.”

“But I know for a fact that they do not develop any online training! How does a collaboration work in that case?”

“Steve, you are quite right assuming that our main business is to develop digital learning modules. However I would like to throw some light on what it includes. Being a smart businessman, I know you will connect the dots in your mind.”

“I am all ears.”

“We are purely into the instructional and technology part of things, the main content always comes from the client, we don’t write it. But we make sure it gets translated into interactive and engaging outcomes. When the course content comes from the client, we start work on the instructional design and create storyboards. Once the client approves them, we start the development. The development includes multiple things like creating the graphics, icons, graphs, charts, animations, 2D or 3D images and characters. A lot of our work involves creating engaging video content. In the end we put everything together and handover the final product to the client….you get the picture?”

“I guess I do, yeah. So are you saying that your services are not limited to the businesses that wish to develop interactive training, but to every business that would like to create digital content?”

“You got it! For your competitor, we have been developing short two minute videos on the side effects of certain drugs. They have hired a dedicated team of animators in our offshore office in India for the video creation work.”

“So the hypoglycemia video they showcased in the conference in DC last month…was it developed by you folks?”

She just smiled.

“You kidding me? That is award winning stuff! You guys are great!”

“Thank you, Steve. This is all about understanding the client’s business thoroughly, asking the right questions and delivering as promised. With stringent processes and strong project management skills, we can do it fairly easily for industries. Though I sell mainly into the life sciences, my company’s business is industry agnostic. We work with many marketing and advertising agencies as their development partners. With a large offshore team, we can take on work at a short notice and work with tight timelines. The hypoglycemia video from our customer or the drug launch presentation I showed to you earlier are just two examples from the many projects we keep executing on a regular basis. Do you think we can catch up once again in NYC next week to have a detailed discussion?”

Rachel’s words forced me to think a lot on the way things were currently happening at my firm, and I could think of many more opportunities already in my head. I would be a fool to say no to Rachel’s proposition.

I learnt that an eLearning company could be of help to many non-training businesses too, and I am already looking forward to know more in our next meeting.

Note: This blog is a fictional account.

Transforming Webcasts into Interactive eLearning Courses


shutterstock_471046154Webcasts or webinars are a popular medium for conveying information and knowledge to the workforce. In my conversations with various life sciences customers, I discovered that many organizations have a library of webcasts with relevant information that are still being used as part of their learning environment. However, one common feedback received from their learners is that “even if the content is relevant, it isn’t engaging at all!”

In today’s highly interactive media world, watching lengthy videos is surely tedious. That’s when I had the idea of turning webcasts into engaging eLearning experiences!

In a typical webcast, you connect through an online meeting tool to watch a presentation and listen to the speaker. You also participate in some polls or questions through the chat window. Webcasts are presented as live sessions and may be also available as a recording.

Why Convert Webcasts into eLearning Courses?

Webcasts lack interactivity if you are watching a recording instead of the live session; it is a passive experience for the learner. Additionally, there is no method to measure the learning outcomes.

As opposed to that, eLearning modules are on-demand training experiences with audio and video elements, interactive activities, knowledge checks and additional resources. One can even perform tasks in simulation courses. You can take the course at a convenient time. With the advent of mobile learning or mLearning, you can also take a course on-the-go on your mobile devices.

You can measure learning outcomes of the course using learner analytics to know how your learners engaged with the course.

3 Easy Steps for Converting Webcasts into eLearning Courses

Step 1: The fishutterstock_351011930-convertedrst step towards converting webcasts into eLearning is to analyze the recording of the webcast and determine which content lends itself to interactivity. During the analysis, you need to determine if the webcast covers all the key information that needs to be included in the eLearning course.  Else collaboration with a SME is necessary to provide the missing content. Using the webcast recording as source material is a good way to reduce dependency on the SME.

Step 2: The content is chunked into smaller, logical parts and then a storyboard is created. The interactions used in the webcasts, for example the whiteboard animations, polls taken to understand user inputs, online games played as brainteasers, questions from the audience at the end of the webcast etc., could be used to create interactive surveys, knowledge checks or interactive scenarios in the eLearning course. One could even use a portion of the webcast video as part of the eLearning course, if relevant.

Step 3: Once the storyboard is finalized, you can start the development of the course using the tool or technology of your choice (e.g. Articulate Storyline, Custom HTML5, Captivate, Raptivity etc.). The choice of the tool will depend on the devices from which the course will be accessed.

5 Things to Keep in Mind before You Start

  1. Merely converting the webcast into an electronic format is not eLearning; just like cut-glass is not a diamond. You must evaluate the content on several criteria to determine how it can be converted into a course.
  2. It is important to define the learning objectives and the learning outcomes of the eLearning course. It will help in analyzing the content and removing any information that is not required for the eLearning course.
  3. There is no need to include everything that has been explained in the webcast in the eLearning course.
  4. It is ideal to collaborate with a trusted partner company that follows eLearning best practices when undertaking this conversion exercise.
  5. It is essential that the content for the eLearning is self-contained since unlike the webcast there is no instructor available for additional annotations. Additionally, the converted training material should be designed for multi-modal presentations – including desktops, tablets, and smart phones.

Already thinking of converting your webcasts into eLearning?

Write to info@harbingerlearning.com to find out how Harbinger can help you convert your existing webcasts into interactive and engaging eLearning courses.

Meeting eLearning Development Targets with Limited Capacity

I was at the eACH Conference last month and a common problem I heard from many eLearning companies was that of a ‘limited team capacity’. These teams or L&D departments aimed to serve thousands of their internal customers but they had to develop many courses in a short time. I realized we have all faced this ‘limited team capacity’ problem at some point or the other.

shutterstock_436594465

Based on my experience of eLearning domain in the last 7 years, here are three ways I have seen our customers address this problem. It has helped them maximize their internal team capacity and at the same time deliver courses based on the business demand.

1. Templatization
You don’t always have to build your eLearning course from scratch. You can create a library of templates that can be reused and customized. This will standardize the quality of eLearning content and also save time and effort.

However, building your own template library would take time. If you need something quickly, there are many paid or free templates available online.

2. Rapid eLearning
Rapid eLearning is the production process of creating e-learning courses quickly and effectively. It usually doesn’t involve using complicated software or programming techniques.

Rapid eLearning is a tool- based approach that can be used by an Instructional Design team. This approach helps lower the development cost and allows you to put together a course quickly.

Articulate Storyline, Adobe Captivate, GoMoLearning, and Raptivity are a few popular rapid eLearning development tools available in the market.

3. Partnering with an expert
Sometimes it’s sensible to partner with an expert company that can act as the extension of your in-house team. The development tasks are handled by the partner, allowing your internal team to focus on the core tasks like communicating with SMEs, gathering the training content, etc.

Choosing a partner that is a one-stop-shop for all eLearning needs is a plus. The partner company should support various tools and technologies and should not be limited to any specific technology. Ask for references and work samples in advance that demonstrate the quality and variety of work they can produce. The right partner can complement your team and give you a cost-effective option.

How did you handle your “limited team capacity” problem? Do share your thoughts through comments below.

About Us
Harbinger Interactive Learning is a learning technology company. We offer cost effective learning solutions with resources across different technologies and skillsets.

We offer course development services in Custom Flash/HTML5, Lectora, Storyline, Captivate etc. A partnership with Harbinger can help customers build high quality eLearning/mLearning courses cost effectively and stretch their development capabilities further.

eACH 2016 Reflections

IMG_20160707_102727

eLearning Alliance of Canadian Hospitals, popularly known as eACH, is a much sought after conference amongst the eLearning fraternity of the Canadian hospitals. eACH 2016 was a grand affair and having attended it on behalf of Harbinger Interactive Learning, I must say that there is no way an eLearning professional not return home inspired to make a difference after attending it. The conference created an amazing atmosphere for all participants to network, engage, learn and grow as eLearning professionals. With so many experts under a single roof, the wealth of experience gained is always priceless.

The vast amount of knowledge shared around learning technologies and information deserves a special mention. Just to give the readers an idea of the conference sessions, it included workshops on some interesting topics like:

  • An Introduction to Storyline, By Tracy Parish
  • Better Than Bullet Points, By Jane Bozarth
  • Building a Strong Foundation, By Cindy Plunkett
  • Interactive Video for eLearning Designers, By David Anderson
  • Digital Storytelling: Making Educational Videos That Speak to the Learner, , By Sarah Dewar, Sharon Navarro

With so much to catch up on, I could only attend couple of sessions, but even those were immensely helpful and informative, as the speakers and topics were top notch.

Another big attraction was ‘Show & Share’ where a few eLearning developers showcased their innovative designs to the attendees. The designs included game based courses, scenario based modules, responsive designs, mobile apps etc. The examples were so good that it must have inspired many to implement some new techniques and strategies in their company’s training this year.

The exhibit hall which was very decently arranged, had significant traffic and there was much interest in our booth. Since most visitors had used Harbinger’s flagship eLearning tool Raptivity in the past, they were already familiar with the product side of Harbinger’s business. We had Todd Kasenberg, Interactive Learning Thought Leader and a Raptivity champion, join us at the booth. This time we were exhibiting the services side of our activities, which is customized development of learner centric trainings. Unlike most other vendors who were LMS companies, we stood out as being a service provider. Visitors to our booth appreciated the screenshots of our work and the live samples. Most mentioned that they would like similar quality of eLearning at their organization too.

IMG_20160707_102743

Other vendors in the exhibit hall were helpful and informative. I wouldn’t deny that the Harbinger team learned a lot from them.

It may seem unnecessary to talk about, but being a foodie, I can’t miss talking about the food. We were taken care of very well, and so were our tummies. The delicious breakfast items, lunch and ingoing shots of caffeine kept our engines fueled throughout.

As a concluding note, exhibiting at eACH provided Harbinger with an opportunity to interact with other eLearning professionals who are serious about advancing in their field. The networking opportunities were tremendous and the talks were insightful and relevant. All in all, a great event!

Approaches to Adaptive eLearning Design

Adaptive e-learning Design

In my last blog, I introduced you to the concept of Adaptive eLearning Design (AED). Today, I’ll talk about a few approaches we follow at Harbinger to create AED based courses for our healthcare and pharmaceutical customers.

These approaches are easy to follow and implement and designed to ensure great ROI.

1.    Design Models

The most commonly preferred approach is incorporating the AED strategies while designing the course.

It could either be implemented through Strategic Chunking of the software simulations or through a Flipped Classroom model. In Strategic Chunking, the design is instructionally chunked into several self-contained small units so that it becomes easy to implement changes across the required unit rather than disturbing the whole system.

In the flipped approach, you could design the system in a way that there are multiple short instructional videos for people to see. The training content doesn’t include many activities or interactions. This part is handled in the training room. So, the amount of changes to be done in the content reduces.

2.    Show Me, Try Me, Test Me

An interesting paradigm that could be followed for creating AED is by carefully modifying the typical Show Me, Try Me and Test Me model. These three steps should ideally be followed in a sequence for a perfect AED enabled system. On a higher level, it involves showing something to the learner and then letting them try it themselves and finally, testing them on what was shown and tried.

 Here are some tips for designing Show Me – Try Me – Test Me:

In Show Me, the system needs to be designed in such a way that it incorporates multiple closely knit images that give the illusion of a video. It is adaptive in the sense that you could simply change the image when required without recreating the complete video.

Try Me can be considered an analogy to ‘Learning by Doing’. In this particular model, the course is heavy on instructions. This approach performs best when the instructions are textual and not audio/video based. That enables you to just replace the instruction text quickly when demanded and need not get into the cumbersome process of re-recording audio/video.

 3.    Training Instructor Guide

Another approach that you could choose for AED is, opting for training with your eLearning partner. In this approach, partner provides you with an Instructional Guide Manual of the system and also trains you at the end of the project delivery. The training would be on the package design as well as maintenance. In such cases, strategically selecting a rapid authoring tool that is not complex and can be easily operated by your team is the key. We have been designing such instructor guides for our customers which they have found useful once they own the responsibility of maintaining the content.

Apart from the above options, if companies have limited resources and budgets, they may even ask for an annual maintenance contract (AMC) with their eLearning partner. AMC works best when there are constant changes planned.

These changes could be at an instructional design level or simply at screen level. They key to a successful AMC is a partner who is willing to go an extra mile to understand the changes you are anticipating in future as maintenance. The partner team should be able work out a strategy for a cost effective AMC based on your needs.

Many of our clients prefer going the AMC way due to the complimentary instructional and authoring skills we bring in.

Each approach has its own benefits and limitations. The best suited approach can be decided after a thorough analysis of client requirements and expectations. I hope you enjoyed reading this blog. I would love to know your thoughts. Do share your comments below.