From Instructional Design to Experience Design – The Corporate Learning Paradigm Shift

Corporate Learning

The evolution of technology in corporate learning has been rapid yet transformative, giving more power to learners at each step. Today, organizations aim at bringing learning to where employees are. It could be on their smartphones, their tablets, laptops, and even on their smart watches. Giving a learner exactly what they want, and where they want, is the only way to win in this disruptive digital landscape. All this calls for solutions that are employee centric. To design such solutions, the focus needs to shift from instructional design to user experience design on a whole.

If you are thinking about what would constitute impactful user experience design, well, for starters, learning and information support systems should be extremely easy and intuitive to use. We are already so accustomed to the Google and YouTube experience in our lives. Say you are seeking a quick tutorial on how to apply an appliqué patch on your denims. Without even wanting to check with the person sitting next to you, you just type in your query on the Google toolbar or the YouTube app on your phone, and there are thousands of results available in a second. There are videos, infographics, articles, and much more. You choose to view based on your reading and watching preference. And if you don’t like what you see, you quickly move to the other results. So quick and easy, Right?

Consider another case, you need a cab, all you need to do is press a search button on your Uber app, and the app shares information on all cabs available nearby, with the estimated wait time as well. Who could have thought of such a technology sorted life, a decade back! Today, all information is available at your fingertips, and the user experience is constantly improving.

We need to design the same experience for corporate learning. But there is a small catch. The corporate learning experience, because of its formal nature, needs to be a lot more controlled; a lot more guided, whilst appearing as independent as it regularly is. Since there is an explosion of video and instructional content over the internet, it is really difficult to filter out the right information for your employees.

Here are some ideas on how to achieve this:

  • Personalize the experience

They key here is to track employees’ digital footprints at the workplace and based on them, guide the employee into an appropriate and personalized learning flow. Every employee’s learning needs and learning style varies from others. Automated systems powered by artificial intelligence can be used to detect what is best suited for an employee. They can be used to act as gatekeepers to filter the right information from the internet to the company intranet.

  • Categorize content

For easy searching, content can be categorized into multiple types   Informative Instructional, Advanced, Compliance Related, etc. These categories may totally depend on the workplace requirement and make it easier for employees to locate the right module or video depending upon their requirement. Uncategorized content will only lead to more confusion and less learning.

  • Specify learning format

Learning formats could be segregated into two types: Macro-learning and Micro-learning.

Micro-learning is just in time, delivered in small, very specific bursts. Two minute videos could be micro-learning. A short game could be micro-learning. Even a small eBook that takes ten minutes to read through could be micro-learning. We, as users, consume this kind of material all day. This could prove handy when an employee wants to learn a quick thing, or read up on a quick policy, Content curated distinctly as micro-learning lets a user know what to expect.

Macro-learning, on the other hand, is something that covers detailed information related to a topic. It comes in handy when an employee wants to learn an entirely new process or function. For instance, it could be all about social media marketing, or automation testing. Macro-learning can be instructor led, or a series of videos and podcasts, or an entire interactive eBook.

  • Enable ratings

When there is abundant information available to be consumed within an organization, it makes sense to learn from other’s experience too. Courses, videos, or other learning objects need to have a provision where employees can rate them. It makes more sense to view a video course with 5 stars on ‘Retargeting’ than a 1 star video. An ‘Effective Sales Strategy’ podcast liked by 50 employees stands a higher chance of being heard than a similar one liked by only 12.

  • Add pre-assessments

Assessments added prior to an important course or module make learning much more controlled and better guided. Such exercises can give a sense of what the employee already knows and what s(he) still needs to learn.

The above steps can ensure that employees can find the information they need wherever they are. Such a design replicates the massive YouTube or Google like learning experience into your corporate learning. The key is to step into the user’s shoes and focus on the user experience design.

Thoughts?

 

Note: This blog has been drafted based on inputs from the following members of Harbinger’s Industrial Advisory Board:

  • Patti Evanosky, Director of Training, Chicken Salad Chick
  • Paul Meek, Director, Solutions Training and Advisory Limited
  • Jayant Kulkarni, Chief of Sales, Harbinger Interactive Learning

Between Minds – A Creative Approach to Building Stories

 How often have you experienced a challenging situation or dilemma where you were thinking hard and eventually just wanted to bang your head against the wall? How did you deal with the situation?

Maybe you brainstormed, without even realizing it. Brainstorming is a relaxed, informal approach to problem solving that promotes lateral thinking. We, at Harbinger, run a program called ‘Between Minds’ based on the brainstorming approach. This is a cross-functional meeting that brings together the Instructional and Graphics Design teams with the core objective of promoting design thinking. Random cross-functional groups are formed for each session, and every time a session is conducted, we get to deal with a unique challenge and come out with a new perspective of looking at things.

In a recent Between Minds session, each group was given a phrase and the expectation was to build a story in the next thirty minutes. Colors and papers were provided, and all the teams used drawing as their tool for weaving their stories. The ultimate objective of this activity was to get the team members work on a critical timeline and come up with a solution, by using their lateral thinking and problem-solving capabilities, along with acknowledging difference of opinions.

Listed below are some stories that the groups came up with:

  • Phrase: Dr. Spark Invents Time Machine

time machine

This is the story of a scientist who invents the time machine post which he assumes any invention would be a cake walk for him. Hence, he further embarks on a journey of inventing telephone. Unfortunately, that turns out to be the biggest mistake of his life as he lands into an era where telephone was invented but not electricity. Thus, there is no power source to which he could connect his time machine and come back to the present. This strengthened the fact that we must keep things simple rather than complicating our journeys. The story also emphasizes on the importance of paying attention to details.

  •  Phrase: Age is Just a Number

age

Another interesting story that came from one team was about an old man and his little grandson. The grandfather, despite being old, is no less than the grandson when it comes to being mischievous and having fun. Both steal ice-cream, fight for the video-game, and love to play scrabble. This story highlighted the fact that if you are willing to do something, then age is just a number. It also beautified how two people separated by a huge age difference were so alike. This story had a sense of simplicity and an essence of nostalgia which took the audience back into the memory lanes of their childhood. It also taught us how simple things could make a big impact at times.

  • Phrase: A Dark and Stormy Night

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Another interesting story was about a dark stormy night when a group of friends lose their way into the woods. They are wet and homeless, and upon finding a shelter, they enter it only to be confronted with spooky sounds. They hear the crying of a cat, squeaks of a baby and some smoke emerging from another room. Flashbacks of all the ghost stories read at leisure strike back indicating a definite possibility of a similar encounter. With a heavy heart and the possibility of coming across an evil spirit, they enter the other room to see a lady cooking food, in a corner of the room. Her baby is playing in the crib and a pet cat is crying in another corner. The story teaches us a lesson of not giving up on situations, and building presumptions about them, until you encounter them.

This session encouraged the teams to come up with the thoughts that, at first, seemed a bit crazy and quirky, but were then developed to build a story that went on to be appreciated by all present. The objective was not to reward or criticize ideas, as judgment stunts lateral thinking and also limits creativity. In a nutshell, it was a rejuvenating activity that pulled everyone out of their daily routine, and yet gave us some good problem-solving lessons, and a deeper insight into collaborating and working as a team to accomplish a common goal.

Do you also participate in any such sessions or activities? What are your favorite approaches to problem-solving? We would love to know your thoughts. Leave your comments below.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 – A Checklist to Get Started

Web Content Accesibility - Concept Image

Web accessibility indicates websites, tools, and technologies are designed and developed in a way that people with disabilities can use them. The most recent guidelines for web accessibility are specified in Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0[1]. US federal government had set a conformance deadline to WCAG as January 1, 2018. Accessible content is now no longer optional; it is a must-have.

Making content accessible usually requires taking care of some basic guidelines related to the navigation mechanism, and fixing some issues in the underlying code (which commonly don’t even count as issues on the regular visual screens). The basics of accessibility are fairly easy to implement. But if you are new to accessibility, it might take some time and effort to learn about them. Most mistakes related to implementing the accessibility guidelines have to do with a failure to understand what constitutes accessible content.

Based on our experience of developing multiple WCAG 2.0 compliant projects, here is a list of the most common issues that could make your content non-accessible, and a checklist to help you avoid them.

Common Issues Checklist to Avoid the Issues on The Left

1.  Too low contrast

2.  Color-driven instructions

3. Background colors that don’t contrast images against text

· Provide sufficient color contrast. Color contrast can be checked with help of free tools like Webaim-color contrast checker.

· The visual presentation of text and images of text has a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1.

· Ensure that information conveyed by color differences is also available in text.

4.  Lack of keyboard accessibility

5.  Lack of “skip to main content” or “skip navigation” Links

6. Complex or difficult interactivities

· Make each page navigable by keyboard alone.

· Add “skip to content” links to allow a user to jump directly to main content rather than navigating through all the controls.

·  Avoid complex interactivity design by chunking complex modules into simpler and smaller activities with required user instructions.

·  Provide keyboard operation for all the functionality of the page. When all functionality of content can be operated through a keyboard or keyboard interface, it can be operated by those with no vision as well as by those who use alternate keyboards or input devices.

7.  Missing or improper headings

8.  Flexibility with different text sizes

·  Use heading tags (H1, H2,…), table headings and lists (UL, LI).

·  Add a meaningful page title.

·  Ensure that content can be scaled uniformly by using a web technology (the browser’s zoom functionality for instance). At the same time ensure that, the zoom function preserves all spatial relationships on the page and that all functionality continues to be available.

9. Screens or parts of screens that change unexpectedly

10. Links that open unexpectedly in new windows

·  Avoid pop-up windows.

·  Allow pausing of animations.

·  User indication should be given when the focus is changing to the new window.

11.  Too many links or navigation items

12.   Links or buttons that do not make sense

·  Avoid “click here” link text. Describe the purpose of a link in the link text itself, instead of just saying “Click here”. For example, content that says, “Open the website www.harbingerlearning.com” instead of “click here.”

· Keep navigation consistent across all pages.

13. Inappropriate Alt attributes

14. Images with missing or improper descriptions (alt text)

·  Add alt text to images which describe the image. For example, an image showing a United States map with its population should have alt text as “Map of the United States showing population density in various states” instead of “an image” or “US Map” as alt text.

·  Add labels to form elements like buttons, links etc.

·  Use CSS for visual presentation of text. CSS benefits accessibility primarily by separating the document structure from presentation. By separating style from markup, developers can simplify and clean up the markup in their content, making it accessible at the same time.

Most organizations across the United States are now legally required to meet accessibility standards. But even if your organization doesn’t fall into that category, it’s still a good idea to make your digital content accessible, because it makes good business sense. It can help improve user experience and hence make your web content more effective.

If you are interested to know more about accessibility or if you have more points that can be added to the list above, feel free to write to us at info@harbingerlearning.com.

[1] https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/

 

Five Crucial Aspects to Address While Repurposing Your Legacy Courses

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Modernizing legacy courses is the need of the hour for organizations that have been into the course development business since long. While making the decision to repurpose legacy content, what are some aspects one should consider? It is not about simply converting Flash or old technology courses to HTML5 but meeting the current and future business needs as well. We, at team Harbinger, have been involved with various organizations to help them repurpose their legacy courses.  Based on our experience of working with these organizations, here are top five aspects people look into, while defining their modernization strategy:

1. Impact on Customer Experience

Since some; or all your legacy courses are still part of your course catalog, and learners are subscribing to it, modernizing would have an impact your current customer experience. Learners would need to spend quite some time figuring out aspects like which browser to use, how to enable flash player in a browser, and go back and forth with the support desks hoping to start viewing the course. This means that the number of support tickets at your service desk will be on the rise and there is every possibility that your support teams will be overworked in order to improve the customer satisfaction score.

2. Strategic Alignment of Goals

Aligning the repurposed legacy courses to the business strategy is crucial. For e.g. if your business is dependent on millennial learners, then micro-learning enabled courses would be an important consideration during redesign. If you are looking to comply with federal government laws, then WCAG compliance would be significant, or if you are thinking of white-labeling courses for your customers then having that kind of flexibility at design level would take precedence over other factors.

3. Future-Ready Enhancements

Another important aspect is to ensure that you are thinking ahead of time and making these courses future-ready. Since you are investing so much time and efforts today to fall in-line with the latest technology and trends, it shouldn’t be the case that several years down the line, you are forced to think about making more changes to them, which means, more investment.

Features like metadata tagging, content chunking into logical micro-nuggets, make the content easily reusable and give you the flexibility for easy updates.

4. Resource Management

As leaders of the content development team, you could also be in a dilemma about managing the whole spectrum of your resources for this specific spike in volume. This would be a tricky situation as you might need to ramp up your content development team size for very specific periods to meet the volume demands and the go-to-market strategies.

5. Weighing all pros and cons against the bottom line

Eventually when it is time to take a decision, you will have to weigh the pros and cons on what will be the impact on your bottom line. If you have a huge catalog of courses, instead of a blanket implementation, you could bucket the courses and select a different approach for each bucket. For example, for top performing courses, you could do a complete revamp. For courses which are not being sold or used a lot, may be a simple cost-effective solution with small fixes to ensure they work on latest browsers could do the job.

Do these aspects sound familiar, have they popped up during your strategy meetings too? If you have been working around some of these, we would happy to hear from you and share our thoughts.

 

Wondering What To Do With Your Legacy Courses?

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It’s that time of the year when we look at the year gone by and put together the charter for the coming year. One of the questions that would have consistently popped up in our minds throughout this year would have been – what should be done with the legacy courses? But, like every year, some other (read ‘more significant’) business need would have taken priority and legacy courses would have gone on the back burner.

In the past few months a couple of announcements are making organizations rethink their decisions and redefine some of their priorities for the upcoming year in terms of handling legacy courses. The first one is the Flash sunset announcement for 2020 and the other one is the United States deadline for conformance to worldwide WCAG 2.0 guidelines. With both these advancements, the only feasible solutions seems to be repurposing legacy courses to make them relevant and appropriate in today’s context.

Here are 5 more reasons on why repurposing needs to be considered sooner than later:

1. The content is still relevant and instructionally sound but with the advent of new devices and browsers, these courses might not just work going forward.
2. The learner profile is changing considerably. Forget about millennials, Gen Z seems to be getting into the workforce as well, and the way these two target audiences would want to learn is different – bite sized, mobile and just-in-time.
3. Repurposing enhances your learners’ user experience and reduces the stress on your support teams and troubleshooting staff.
4. It helps strengthen your course catalog portfolio.
5. It could positively impact your bottom line.

We’ll let these thoughts sink in till we come up with the next blog in this series. In case you would like to have a discussion on this, write to us at info@harbingerlearning.com .
With this note here’s wishing you a very happy and spirited holiday season.