Digital Learning Objects – An Interesting Approach to Deliver Engaging Learning Experiences

One of Harbinger’s most interesting offerings has been Digital Learning Objects (DLOs). Harbinger aims to serves its customers’ digital, blended or ILT requirements through creation of DLOs that can be used independently or as part of larger learning experiences.

Digital Learning Objects

We have an interesting case study that demonstrates Harbinger’s expertise at creating DLOs for the publishing business of one of the world’s largest universities. This high stake, high visibility project required Harbinger to develop multiple DLOs that were platform and device agnostic. Read more here.

And if you are curious to know more about DLOs, then here is what they are: They are self contained digital pieces which comprise of brief stand-alone units like interactive videos, game based assessments, simulations, presentations, tests, brainteasers, etc. These DLOs can be used to convey information, enable interactions through games, illustrate concepts, reinforce learning, tell stories, enable practice, etc. Know more about DLOs here.

Have you used DLOs in your learning experiences? How was your experience? Share through comments below.

A Video Speaks a Million Words

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It’s currently 3 °C in New York City and only getting colder! I make sure the heater in my office is working as it should be before Rachel comes in for the meeting.

“Good morning, Rachel! Nice to have you here!”

“Morning, Steve! Good to see you again.”

I know Rachel from my university days. We had not been in touch till I bumped into her last week at a conference in Toronto.

I own a digital communications agency in Manhattan and Rachel had set up time with me to discuss how her eLearning development company could help me with my business.

“So Steve, do you actively promote video development services to your clients?”

“Not really. It’s mostly the clients who come to us with a requirement. If they need video, we do that for them”.

“And have you thought of offering development of interactive videos to them?”

“Interactive videos? What are those? Aren’t videos just, well, videos?”

Rachel smiles  and says, “Well let’s start with telling you why you should be selling videos more, especially since your client base is all pharmaceutical companies. The healthcare industry, especially pharmaceuticals, uses a lot of videos in many activities. These could be promotional videos for their drugs, marketing videos, training videos, or videos for drug launch and so on. Adding video creation as one of your main offerings will certainly give you an edge over your competitors.”

“Makes sense. Great point!”

“Thank you! Our offshore team in India is skilled in creating engaging videos. Of course, you have seen the example of the hypoglycemia video we created for your competitor, Medical Communications. As you know, when it comes to conveying your message to the audience, video is one of the most effective media you can use. Also, video is a great attention grabber. If a video was available, most audience would opt to watch it before reading any text.”

“These are certainly some useful points for me to remember while speaking with my customers.”

“Indeed. Video can help deliver a consistent message each time. It’s also an easy way to strike personal connections with audience. Video content is social-media-friendly, thus easily shareable with increased level of engagement.”

“Couldn’t agree more with you!”

“Now let’s move to interactive videos. Interactive videos transform a traditional video experience from a monologue into a dialogue.”

“Interesting!”

“Interactive videos have the power to engage, turning viewers into participants.”

“This all sounds great. But how do you do it? Also, can you show me an example of an interactive video?”

“Absolutely! We have expertise into a few tools that can make videos interactive. One of them is Exaltive. Please check out this video to see what an interactive video looks like.”

“This is great stuff, Rachel! I know my clients will love this!”

“I know!. Interactive videos—with their power to turn viewer’s attention into engagement— build customer loyalty with personalized communication and boost sales.”

I am now working together with Rachel on proposing interactive video development to one of our biggest pharma clients.

I know it’s going to be a long term partnership with Rachel’s company.

7 Things to Keep in Mind While Designing Digital Learning for Millennials

For eLearning course designers, learners have always been the central focus. In the recent times, it has been felt that the way learners learn and consume eLearning has been changing and one of the primary reasons is the emergence of the millennial learner on the stage.

So, who’s the millennial, and what’s so different about their learning style?

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Millennials are the digital generation of today (mainly, the people born in the 1980s or 1990s) who are married to technology to an extent that it’s almost an extension of their own selves. Research indicates that they:

  • Are global citizens
  • Have an entrepreneurial spirit
  • Come from diverse backgrounds
  • Have a limited attention span

So how do you align your development strategy to meet the specific learning needs of millennials?

  1. Make it platform and device agnostic: Do not bind the learner to a specific device or environment; make the digital learning available anywhere, anytime. Preferably, adopt a ‘mobile first’ approach.
  1. Keep it short: Keep the eLearning bite-sized and make it available in micro-learning formats to suit the diversified visual, auditory, and kinetic learning needs. A rigid framework might put off the learner.
  2. Learning goal should be visible: Make the end goal visible to the learner to tie the learning to their work life. This will bring in their active participation and will also encourage them to use the learning in real-world scenarios. This serves their need to be practical and result-oriented.
  3. Make it challenging and fun: Millennials would prefer to solve challenges, so create scenarios close to their day-to-day work and throw in some gamification elements to make it a challenging and fun experience at the same time.
  4. Enable the learner: Keep the design fluid, and enable them to be in control, to take risks, and to multitask. For example, teach a sales call through a branching scenario where learners select the choices they will make while talking to a prospective customer that could result into a successful closure or lost opportunity.
  5. Make it social: Bring in the social and collaborative learning components such as discussion forums, chats, badges, etc. Millennials prefer collaborative experiences and tend to share anything they like. This allows them to enhance their learning experience and also helps the learner community.
  6. Keep it diverse: Various research studies show that millennials are the most diverse of the lot. They consider themselves global citizens. Aim to capture this element in your design for an enhanced learning experience. This could be achieved by using ethnically diverse photographs, globally applicable examples, and using “youth speak.”

This is definitely not a secret sauce or the only seven things which need to be considered while creating a digital learning experience for millennials; but something basic, yet important.

I would like to hear both from eLearning designers and millennial learners about their experiences and views on this.

Bringing Organization Culture into Online Training

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“Think about the advantage of a place where talent wants to stay 25 years. Your turnover is lower, you don’t have as many people you have to train every year, break in every year, you don’t have as many mistakes. A seasoned workforce does a better job – and they cost you less money.”

David Rodriguez, CHRO, Marriott (Source)

Every organization has a culture that is unique to itself; this is what differentiates it from others. Organizational culture is an underlying aspect that has a significant impact on retaining key talent.

Being an eLearning development company, we create corporate training programs for many of our clients. We noticed that most companies tend to ignore organizational culture while developing online training. Since it is such an important consideration, we now attempt to capture the organization’s culture in its online training. Let me explain this with two interesting customer stories. Read on!

Online Training Module for a Restaurant Chain
A well-known restaurant chain (Name confidential) needed to frequently train new hires in multiple locations. It was a challenge for their trainers to travel to each franchise and train new hires on regular basis. There was a clear need for an online training program and hence this organization approached us. Realizing that their organizational culture was important to the company, we decided infuse the brand’s culture into the online training.

Here are few things we did that made this training program much sought after, both by the organization and its employees:

  1. We used caricatures of their key employees as mentors in the courses. The caricatures ranged from the owner of the restaurant chain to representatives from each work delivery. This included employees at the point of sale, to the ones preparing the order, to those delivering the order. This helped new employees establish a connection with the people in the organization.
  2. We used real voices of the owner and the employees instead of voices by professional artists. We also used actual photographs of the restaurant and its customers and inserted them at relevant places within the course to create a familiar look and feel.
  3. We also included real-time videos of various activities performed in the restaurant such as cooking, cleaning, customer service, etc. to help make the training more impactful.

Interesting, isn’t it? It helped us bring the complete restaurant environment right into the course. And as you must have imagined, it wasn’t even too expensive or time-consuming to make this happen. But the results were amazing!

Values Based Training Module for a Non-Profit Organization
Another example was for a non-profit organization, for the organizational values were central to their everyday work.

Diversity was an important value for the organization and by using employee photographs we were able to convey the organization’s value in our course. Employee photographs also accompanied narrations of real-life stories of how they have included the organization’s values-based culture in their work situations. This helped convey how the values can be practiced by learners on their jobs.

This course too, like the previous one, incorporated voices of employees to create a connection and lend a feel of authenticity.

Such courses tend to have a strong impact as each course is unique to the organization. It also helps bring in the feel of the organization into an online learning course and creates an engaging and rewarding experience for the learners.

An added advantage of this approach is that these courses turn out more cost-effective too

  1. Since the voices used in the course are of employees, the organization saves on professional recording cost.
  2. By using various on-site photographs of locations, real employees, in-house videos, there is no need to purchase any kind of stock images or videos.

Have you seen or come across such courses that capture the organization’s culture in interesting and cost-effective ways? I would be happy to know your thoughts on the same through comments below.

When Steve Met Rachel

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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.