Digital Product Training for your Mobile Salesforce

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Effective product training to its salesforce is crucial for any organization’s success and brand value, and this holds true especially for product manufacturing firms. How well a salesforce can deliver the message to existing and prospective customers can make a big difference to its sales figures. But it’s not an easy task, especially when you are constantly innovating and have an extensive range of products, parts and accessories.

 

A lot of training managers at manufacturing companies typically cite product training as one of their key challenge areas. And this is why:

 

  1. Most of the organizations release new products or product updates frequently. Sales representatives keep going on and off the board constantly. It thus becomes a challenge to ensure that they have standardized and up-to-date knowledge on all products at all times.
  2. A lot of times, salesforce is spread across geographically. Also considering that they are often travelling on sales calls, it is a huge task to gather them in one place to attend trainings. It costs in terms of logistics, time invested in travelling and interruption to their work schedule.
  3. Considering the number of trainers involved across multiple locations, maintaining consistent and accurate training content becomes difficult.
  4. Considering multiple product releases and in-turn, their sales collateral, sometimes there is ambiguity on the latest version of such collateral received by the salesforce.

 

All of this could directly impact a company’s bottom line. In the absence of comprehensive, current and easily accessible product knowledge, the sales person could struggle to deliver a smooth pitch about the product, handle customer questions proficiently, recommend right products, gain customer’s trust and essentially get business.

 

A training manager had once asked me, “Then how do we train our salesforce effectively?” My answer to her was “Mobile Learning.” This is the best solution for today’s tech-savvy and mobile salesforce. The various benefits for mobile learning are:

 

For salesforce

  • On-the-go learning via smartphone or tablet, convenient with their schedule and pace
  • Real-time access to current and relevant product knowledge just before or even during customer meetings –leading to ‘Performance Support through Just in Time Learning Solutions’
  • Ability to continuously review completed courses, podcasts and documents
  • Complex product specifications, engineering drawings, installation and servicing information made easy through compelling multimedia content

 

For product manufacturer

  • Better trained, successful and motivated salesforce which can even lead to higher retention
  • Complete control on the training content across multiple locations
  • Boost in training attendance
  • Reduced logistics cost such as hotel or travel expenses
  • Ability to track training attendance, completion and performance
  • Opportunities for increased sales due to strong product knowledge at the point-of-sale

 

While there will always be a place for instructor-led training for some part of it, mobile learning can greatly impact sales through a well-trained sales force, which will always be on top of their game.

 

It would be wonderful to know your thoughts, questions and experiences in the comments section below.

 

Edumercials—tasty titbits to strengthen your eLearning diet

Edumercial or infomercial—have you heard any of these terms before? If yes, most probably you would have heard them in the context of marketing, where edumercial stands for ‘education + commercial”.  Generally, it is a commercial advertisement that offers education to its audience with a hidden objective of promotion. In this blog, I will be talking about using edumercials in eLearning, which is one of Harbinger Interactive Learning’s unique and pioneering offerings.

So what is an edumercial in the eLearning context? It’s an innovative instructional approach that brings the benefits of television commercials (TVCs) into the learning experience. These are bite-sized micro-learning nuggets that put across a concept in a captivating way.

Like for commercials, the critical element in these 5 to 6 minute videos is to grab learner’s attention in first 3 to 10 seconds. This is done through compelling audio, imagery and animation. One can also add interactivity to enhance learner engagement. The concept or the piece of information is often woven into a story or a scenario to let learners relate to it and be interested to learn more. Edumercials usually do not have knowledge checks or assessments.

You must be curious to know why are edumercials required and when should one use them? Basically, edumercials can be used as standalone ‘just-in-time’ learning pieces or they can also be integrated within an eLearning course to make it more engaging. They can be used for a variety of purposes such as:

  • Introduction to a course
  • Product demonstration
  • ‘Show Me’ simulation
  • Rapid recall exercise
  • Quick synopsis
  • Job aids

As edumercials are quick and to the point, they go a long way in grabbing and mainlining learners’ focus. They can be quickly recalled and align well with the Cognitive Load Theory. According to this theory, our short term or working memory has a small capacity to retain 4-5 bits of information at a time. Edumercials help reduce the amount of load that is being placed upon the learners’ working memory and help to effectively integrate the information into his/her long-term memory.

Using edumercials in the right way is a systematic instructional approach that delivers the message or information across learners efficiently. They certainly motivate distracted or stressed learners or learners who struggle to manage their time to learn. What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Putting Augmented Reality to Use with an Interactive Brochure

You probably have heard a lot about Augmented Reality (AR) and how it helps to create highly engaging, interactive and meaningful learning experiences for users. If you haven’t, you can go through my earlier blog – Augmented Reality for Learning – Digging Deeper. This is something that will interest you especially if you are related to learning, development or education in any way. The blog also lists some use cases and interesting examples of using AR for learning.

In this blog, I am going to share niceties about an innovative brochure created by our team at Harbinger, using AR technology. This brochure gives readers information, demos and deeper insight into Harbinger’s learning solutions and competencies, in a stunningly interactive way.

Why a brochure in the first place?

Conventionally, chances of grabbing reader’s attention with a short and visually appealing printed material are higher than an email or a web link. Our team at Harbinger follows a culture for innovation. Hence, instead of creating a plain brochure, we thought of bringing it alive using AR. The idea was to create an immersive experience for readers, who can explore different sections of the brochure in a stimulating way.

Like to see how this brochure works?

Anyone with access to Harbinger AR app and the brochure can experience the unique AR interactivities. You can also watch this short video that demonstrates how the brochure works.

How did we do it?

We developed this interactive brochure with a modular framework called Metaio SDK. The broad process we followed was:

  1. Conceptualizing the brochure
  2. Developing AR image marker with Metaio SDK
  3. Printing the brochure with AR marker image
  4. Integrating interactive assets with the Harbinger AR app
  5. Publishing the app on the App Store

And the outcome?

With this brochure, we have been demonstrating our pioneering capabilities of AR based learning solutions at client meetings and conferences. It has proved to be an icebreaker for conversations, and centerpiece to maintaining reader’s attention.

As a next step, we worked on couple of more AR projects for our clients. These clients have had very encouraging feedback from their customers and learners. 

What are your thoughts on this brochure and experiences of using AR for learning?

I would love to hear from you!

Augmented Reality for Learning – Digging Deeper

Augmented Reality – sounds like a fantasy? Not really. It is in fact one of the most stimulating technologies around that has been creating a buzz in the learning and education sphere for a while. Over the past two decades, Augmented Reality (AR) has changed the way people learn by putting real world context to digital learning.

Put simply, AR blends the real world with the virtual elements to create an amazing learning experience for users. It enhances the physical learning environment with digital information, using various apps and devices. The digital information can be in the form of text, audio, video, 2-Dimensional and 3-Dimensional graphics and animations. The real time interaction of users with the virtual elements and the real world brings abstract concepts to life and stimulates greater understanding.

AR is adaptable to constructivist theory which believes that humans construct their own knowledge, through experiencing things and reflecting on those experiences. This theory promotes active and exploratory learning where learners take control of their own learning. With AR, learners can manipulate and control augmented environment in real time which is connected to real world. AR can thus bridge the gap between theory and practice in a safe environment.

Few use cases of AR for training:  

  • Ideal for healthcare training e.g. human anatomy, performing a surgery etc.
  • Useful in industrial training of procedural tasks e.g. maintenance, repair and assembly of any equipment
  • Assisting in situations (just-in-time) or when people do not have much time in hand to access information e.g. firefighting and military trainings
  • Excellent resource as Job Aid and Performance Support
  • Presenting multi-dimensional models and exploratory information of products/objects.
  • Addition of three dimensional interactive multimedia to make any textbook or manual come alive

Interesting examples that show how AR can be creatively used in various contexts:

This is a video of an AR show run at the National Geographic exhibit in Rotterdam. The visitors are amazed to see themselves with astronauts, dinosaurs, rainstorms or lightening.


This is an AR training demonstration that illustrates how AR can be used for self-guided training. Trainees are allowed hands-on opportunities to learn how to maintain a pump on their own.

This video shows how AR technology can be used in schools to augment classrooms, text books and lessons – bridging the physical world with the virtual.

This AR demo shows how real world objects can be recognized with AR and how product specifications and usage instructions can be effectively communicated to users in real time.

This is an example of AR in healthcare training where trainees can practice diagnosing and treating patients in a risk-free environment.

To conclude, AR technology has opened a window of exciting opportunities to make the learning experience highly engaging and interactive for users. Gartner says Augmented Reality will become an important workplace tool. It has the potential to improve productivity, provide hands-on experience, simplify current processes, increase available information, provide real-time access to data, offer new ways to visualize problems and solutions, and enhance collaboration.

The purpose of this blog was to provide a brief introduction and use cases of AR. In my next blog, I will write about how my team at Harbinger Interactive Learning used AR innovatively to create an interactive brochure for conferences. Stay tuned to experience this interesting brochure.

You don’t want to miss: Webinar on Storyboarding Essentials and More

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Storyboard is the blueprint of any eLearning course. Instructional designers and course creators mostly intend to create a good storyboard for their courses but something or the other hinders them. At times, it is their inexperience which leads to the apprehension of laying out all their content properly into the storyboard, sometimes it is the fear of the storyboard not being interpreted correctly by their team members. At times, some of them feel that the storyboard might make their course too linear. Whatever be the stopping factor, storyboard is actually central to eLearning course development.

Laying out content easily and effectively into any storyboard requires the complete know-how of all course elements, course objective and even knowledge of some tools. Most people find getting started with their storyboard the most difficult part in the whole storyboarding process. They are stuck right at the onset. To answer all such apprehensions and queries related to storyboarding, Harbinger brings to you an exclusive session on ‘The Art of Storyboarding’.

The session will be conducted by Desiree Pinder – Executive Director/Founder – Artisan eLearning. Desiree is also a Thought Leader on Interactive Learning. Through the session, she will guide attendees through the key nuances of storyboarding like:

  • Top mistakes people make when storyboarding and how to avoid them
  • Tips on setting up the course canvas
  • Tools that can be used for storyboard writing

This complementary webinar will take place on June 25th, 2015 at 10:00 AM PST. You may register here to attend it.