My Life at Harbinger

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A career is an ongoing journey of self-discovery and growth. When this journey is adorned with learning, recognition and fun—it becomes truly satisfying and rewarding. In a nutshell, that’s my life at Harbinger.

With the hope of advancing my career and maturing as a professional, I embarked on a new expedition and entered into a partnership with the Harbinger Group early this year. I joined this organization as a Lead Instructional Designer and my experience so far has been fantastic and extremely rewarding. In this blog-post, I’m capturing a few experiences from my journey at Harbinger.

The Company Culture

As a new entrant, I was inspired to see so many women leaders here. I’m really excited about being part of an organization that strongly believes in developing its people and promoting inclusivity. Every employee in this company is valued as a ‘partner’ and is provided with an equal opportunity to explore their talents, interests and goals. By policy design, every employee frequently connects with their manager via one-on-one meetings. This facilitates an open communication to understand how everything is going and enables both the manager and the employee to uncover ways to progress towards success. The organization’s architecture is such that it provides employees with a clear understanding of their work and guides them in the right direction. So, each one of us exactly knows what it takes to do a great job and advance in our career mission. All that matters is our passion for work and vision for future. I feel a strong sense of belonging here, and maybe that’s one of the reasons why you’ll spot a lot of happy professionals here!

On-boarding at Harbinger

I must admit that I was fairly impressed with the entire on-boarding process. In my 7 year journey in the corporate world, this is the first organization that formally welcomed me with a well planned on-boarding itinerary. All credit goes to the Talent Management team that is purely engaged in enriching an employee’s experience at Harbinger. I was very anxious as I was stepping into my new workplace but thankfully, the experts from this team made all the paperwork, people and processes fairly easy.

My Team

It feels great to be part of this amazing group of people who work towards developing innovative digital learning solutions for customers. Harbinger Interactive Learning Private Limited is a mixed bag of people with competency in marketing and sales, project management, instructional design, multimedia design, program design and quality assurance. In this lot, I am a part of the Instructional Design team, a bunch of creative and visionary writers. We work closely with both customers as well as internal stakeholders to capture project requirements and formulate a solution that best addresses their training needs. I am proud to be working with a team of Instructional Designers who are thought leaders in their own way. My work becomes more enriching because of the continuous learning largely facilitated by my manager and with the ongoing interactions with my peers.

Transparency and Trust

Transparency and trust are the core values that the leadership at Harbinger radiates. Right from people at the top till your immediate supervisor—these values are seen across all levels of the leadership chain at Harbinger, and are passed on to everyone else too. These values make employees more compassionate and relatable; and in turn; gives them the confidence to overcome challenges coming their way. That’s one of the key reasons why you see a lot of innovation and ideas coming from people here.

Celebrating Synergy

Synergy is not just limited to the intense brainstorming meetings that we have—it goes beyond that. Even with the crazy deadlines, we ensure we get together as a team and have a great time at work. ‘Quick Talks’ by colleagues keep us abreast with the latest developments and varied experiences within the group. The ‘Creative Hours’, ‘Happy Hours’ and the ‘Between Minds’ sessions help us connect as a team and indulge in some fun and relaxing activities. Celebrations are an integral part of our work life, and are a hallmark of the Harbinger work culture. Right from welcoming new joiners to celebrating important milestones of employees and projects, acknowledging ‘Distinguished Contributors’ and ringing in the festivities—we do it all and that’s the best part of being at Harbinger. Employees are engaged in an environment that promotes learning, professional growth and fun.

A Dream Come True Moment

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One of the happiest and most significant moments in my career will always be the felicitation ceremony when I received the ‘Distinguished Contributor’ award for my work at Harbinger. It is a pleasant surprise to have your efforts and work acknowledged so early in your association with an organization. But, that’s Harbinger! This has just motivated me to achieve more at work. I just hope that in my association with Harbinger, I address each opportunity to the best of my potential and build many more golden moments to be cherished for this lifetime.

One final message for you—the reader of this blog, Harbinger is a great place to work. Life at Harbinger is an interesting mix of work, learning and fun. If you want to innovate, partner and excel—do explore the work opportunities at Harbinger.

 

4 Ways to Say ‘No’ to Boring Compliance Courses

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“That compliance course was fun!”

How often have you heard learners say that? Well, hardly ever.

Compliance courses are a way of educating employees on rules, regulations and organizational policies that apply to an employee’s day-to-day job responsibilities. Compliance training is the top priority for all organizations; however, it doesn’t usually excite the learners. The first thing that comes to one’s mind when they hear about online compliance courses is “long hours of content download.” These courses remain in the to-do list of employees until the deadline to take them looms large. Though organizations need to ensure that employees complete these trainings, employees do not enjoy taking the courses and hence effective knowledge transfer doesn’t happen.

So how do you make compliance courses exciting in a way that can make the employees ‘want’ to take them rather than ‘have’ to? Here are four easy strategies that you can use.

  1. Assess your Learners

One type of design approach won’t be suitable for all your learners. Some learners would have taken the course earlier so they may prefer to look at only the new content. On the other hand, some learners could be beginners and need to go through the entire training. So, to devise an appropriate learning strategy that works best, assess all learners before providing them with the content. You can do this by creating a pre-test which will help determine if a learner needs only a part of the course or the entire training. You can then categorize the information as ‘must-know,’ ‘good-to-know’ and ‘nice-to-know,’ and use this to create effective design and development strategies.

  1. Create Smaller Content Bites

Often compliance training intimidates learners because of its duration. Creating small, bite-sized, stand-alone chunks as micro-learning nuggets will give learners the freedom of starting and completing the training as per their convenience. Learners can take the course while commuting or as a breather between their routine work tasks.

  1. Make it Device Friendly

Today, when everything is “mobile”, you can’t limit online learning to desktops only. Employees prefer training material that can be accessed on-the-go. Making compliance training accessible on mobile devices will help ease out the burden associated with it; learners don’t necessarily need to fit the courses during their workday but can complete them in their spare time.

  1. Make it Fun!

Think of ways to make the courses engaging and fun for learners. You can use one or a combination of the following strategies:

  • Adding a Character: Include a character or an avatar in your compliance course to make it more relatable, interactive, and engaging. Choose a character that learners can relate to and use it effectively to guide through the training material.
  • Adding Videos: Create an engaging experience by integrating videos that enhance/supplement the content. The videos can have senior management reinforcing the value of complying with policies, or can be created using illustrations or images and stylized text with a powerful audio narration.
  • Storytelling: Who doesn’t like stories? Stories have the power to stimulate interest and retention even in the case of compliance courses. Based on the sensitivity of the topic, you could create a fictional story and add characters that relate to the topic as well as the learners. Your stories can be humorous, surprising or emotional. A well-written story has the power to hook learners to any kind of course.
  • Adding Scenarios: Scenarios provide a realistic context to learners to help rehearse the relevant skills in a simulated environment. Create challenging scenarios that learners can connect with and think about “how they would react” to a given situation.
  • Gamifying it: We all love playing games. You could create informative games for your compliance courses that are also relevant to the training context. Include activities and tasks for learners that they must perform, keeping in mind the organization’s policies and procedures. Creating compliance courses as games where learners take up new challenges, earn rewards or tokens to qualify to the next level will make learners look at these course as a fun activity.

These are some ways to make the online compliance courses more fun and interesting. Have you spiced up your compliance courses? What are some of the strategies that you used to make them engaging? Share your comments here.

Interactive Mini-Modules—An Interesting Approach to Micro-Learning

If you are connected to eLearning in any way, you probably have heard a lot about micro-learning. There is a lot being discussed in conferences, blogs, online forums and webinars on how to create effective micro-learning to meet millennials’ learning requirements.

When talking about micro-learning, most of us often think of videos, podcasts or simple text and image slide shows. How about creating an interactive micro-learning module? Well, it may sound like a huge task to infuse interactivity into a micro-learning burst. But it’s not as difficult and time-consuming as it sounds. I recently created an interactive mini-module and would like to share the experience with you.

One of my colleagues, Sonia, had written an interesting blog on “Why Stories Matter” to make learning more impactful and engaging. It inspired me to create a mini-module on how storytelling can be used as an effective instructional strategy. The objective of this module is to help an instructional designer/trainer/educator to get started with using storytelling in their instructions. To keep the module simple and brief, I planned to include an introduction to storytelling, a brief on how to create stories and some tips for effective storytelling.

After creating and chunking the content based on the learning objective, I turned to Raptivity, a rapid interactivity building tool, for the actual development of the module. I chose five interaction templates from Raptivity that suited the content. Then, I gathered the relevant images for each interaction and started customizing the interactions in Raptivity.

Interaction 1 - eBook

For introduction, I chose the eBook/flip book template and started with a short story to grab attention and then went on to explain what storytelling is.

 

 

 

Interaction 2 - Lesson

I created the second interaction using flash/flip cards template. It explained essential elements of the story, since learners could view the element names and relevant images on front side of the cards and their description on the flip side.

 

 

Interaction 3 - Buildup and Rollover

After knowing the story elements, the next step is to create a story comprising of those elements. The story mountain helps you plot stories in a proper format. I presented the story mountain in the third interaction using a build-up animation template. Learners can click on each part of the mountain to learn more about it.

 

Interaction 4 - Lesson

In the next interaction, I included some tips to create stories and use storytelling effectively. Here, I chose a lesson template, where tips appear with relevant images as an animation. Learners can revisit any tip by clicking on the number buttons.

 

 

Interaction 5 - Drag and Drop

Lastly, I wanted to include some knowledge check for learners to reinforce their learning. I chose a drag and drop template, where some dos and don’ts for effective storytelling are listed and learners need to classify them correctly. Learners get immediate feedback on dropping a phrase under a wrong category.

 

Interactive Mini-module - Linker course

Once the text and images were ready, it took me a couple of hours to develop each interaction. To put these interactions together as a module, I used the Raptivity Linker tool. Stringing these interactions together was just a matter of minutes and my mini-module on Storytelling was ready!

You can go through this mini-module here.

Using Raptivity and Raptivity Linker, I was able to develop this entire module, including the base content creation, in less than three days. The broad steps that I followed were:

  1. Decide on the learning objective and create a topic outline.
  2. Create and chunk the text into small information bursts.
  3. Choose interaction templates that best suit the text chunks.
  4. Gather/create relevant media assets according to chosen templates.
  5. Customize interaction templates using the text and media assets.
  6. String the interactions together. Alternatively, these interactions can also be used as standalone learning nuggets.

This approach could be a good way to quickly create micro-learning that offers streamlined, short bits of information along with interactivity and engagement. Have you created micro-learning? What approach did you follow and how easy or difficult it was to create it? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

Making your eLearning Accessible

shutterstock_284549888The power of the web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”  Tim Berners-Lee.

In the U.S, most federal agencies and institutions are required to be 508 Compliant and across the world, courses and web pages need to adhere to WCAG requirements.  Both these requirements are geared to make web content accessible to all learners including those who are differently-abled.

Though accessibility, on the surface, seems to be a straightforward requirement, to make an eLearning course truly accessible to all learners is a challenge. You need to first understand the requirements of differently-able learners and the solutions to address these.

Five User Profiles

Knowing the various user profiles that you need to address is crucial in ensuring that the courses are accessible. There are five user profiles to keep in mind while designing for accessibility. You may not be required to cover all the user profiles in your learning solution.

 1. Individuals with visual disabilities

Individuals with visual disabilities have challenges using eLearning courses since these rely on visuals for teaching. The possible solutions for the challenges faced by these individuals are as follows:

  • Provide text descriptions in the alt attribute since they are unable to see images, photos, graphics
  • Allow the users to skip items that might be difficult or tedious to listen to by adding links.
  • Avoid asking the learner to use the mouse extensively, if this cannot be avoided, suggest keyboard alternatives.
  • Avoid relying on color alone to convey meaning
  • Offer audio descriptions of elements in videos that are not covered in audio alone. For example, if there are actions that a character does in the video, describe these in the audio.
  • Individuals with color blindness may require additional considerations such as ensuring there is sufficient contrast in the colors used for a course.

2. Individuals with hearing loss

There are varying degrees of hearing loss, from mild hearing loss to profound hearing loss. For these users, you will need to provide transcripts for audio clips and provide synchronous captioning for video clips.

3. Individuals with deaf-blindness

Deaf-blindness is a condition when the individual is both deaf and blind. When accessing web content, they generally use a Braille device that enables them to access the text content of a web page and provides alternative text for images.

4. Individuals with motor disabilities

Users with motor disabilities include those who have spinal cord injuries or the loss or damage of limb(s). The challenges faced by these users and the possible solutions are as follows:

  • Ensure that all functions are accessible by using the keyboard. These users may rely on voice-activated software. This software cannot duplicate mouse movement as successfully as the keyboard can.
  • Ensure that your pages are ‘error-tolerant’. For example, if the user deletes something, display the message asking them if they are sure they want to delete the file.

5. Individuals with cognitive disabilities

Individuals with learning or cognitive disabilities may be able to function adequately even with the disability. For these users, simplify the layout as much as possible. You can also organize information in manageable chunks and use minimal text.

How are you ensuring accessibility in your learning designs? What are some of the solutions that you have used to make eLearning accessible? Do share your thoughts in the comments below.

6 Simple Ways to Develop an Eye for Detail

Image1“I love the way your team pays attention to details and picks up such little things that are easy to ignore,” said one of our clients on the call last evening, when we were discussing the project highlights. This annotation from the client, made me think about the importance of paying attention to details and its impact on the overall quality of the courses we create.

In the e-learning industry, quality is one of the biggest criteria that helps an organization stand out amongst others. Everyone involved in the project is responsible to ensure the courses delivered are free from not only the obvious issues (technical and/or functional), but also the small things that require a keen eye to detail.

According to author and media expert Michael Levine, the biggest problems in any business arise from ignoring the smallest of detail. And as an instructional designer, I believe that paying attention to details should be put into practice right from the beginning of the project. Even the minutest of the things, if carefully looked at, right from the start, can help reduce errors, increase efficiency and enhance the finishing of the final product.

However, it’s not as simple as it sounds; paying attention to details is a skill that needs to be acquired and just like other skills, it requires a conscientious practice.

 

Here are 6 simple ways to develop an eye for detail:

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1. Research before you begin: Do some study before you start a new assignment. For example, get to know your customers, their preference of language, writing styles, graphics, color schemes, and do not hesitate to ask detailed questions. The more thorough you are while asking questions in the beginning, the better it is for the project at later stages.

2. Make friends with checklists: Checklists come very handy when you have to work on multiple projects simultaneously, with each project following different standards. These are effective little tools that help you improve your attention to detail by keeping a track of what you might otherwise miss. The habit of creating checklists pays off well.

3. Use MS Office tools: MS Office tools are your saviors for many small slips, like typos, inconsistent formatting of your bullets, different capitalization method for the section headers in your document and inconsistent spellings (for example, e-learning vs eLearning). These negligible slips may not be seen up-front but give clients an opportunity to form a not-so-good impression about your work. MS Office tools can help you fix these slips to a great extent. For example, F7 can check spellings for you, Ctrl+Shift+C and Ctrl+Shift+V can be used to apply same format across all pages and Find and Replace option can help in maintaining consistent writing styles.

4. Review your work: Review your documents a couple of times to ensure nothing looks out of place. If possible, have another pair of eyes review your work and provide feedback. It’s always good to invite another person’s perspective as it gives you an opportunity to think deeper on what you may not have previously considered.

5. Take a break: Yes! That’s right. Take a break, grab a coffee or go for a quick walk if you start losing focus or feel tired. If you continue working when you can barely concentrate, you will end up missing out on details. So, take some time out for yourself and resume work when you feel refreshed.

6. Do not rush: Take time to complete your work as speed induces errors. There are occasions when you have multiple deliverables in the same day or week. Plan your tasks as per priority so that you can give enough time to each deliverable without overlooking small things that may make a big difference.

 

And it doesn’t stop there. Learning how to pay attention to detail is a continuous exercise, even for people who have a keen eye to detail.

So, slow down… and start paying attention to details using these tips as your checklist, and let the quality of your work define you.

Any more suggestions/tips on how you can develop or improve upon this skill? Share your ideas here.