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.

Designing a “Dual-Mode” Course!

When dealing with K12 providers, one of the common issues we need to address is the need to have teaching aids in the course. Most of the time, we create two versions of the course – one for the learner, without the teaching aids, and one with the aids, for the teacher. We recently completed a course for a K12 provider who needed to teach kids a chapter of history using World War II photographs as a medium.

We used a neat trick in this course that helped us to identify exactly what features needed to be stripped off for the student version of the course – We simply created a dual-mode course! All the teaching aids for the course were accessible through a button, so the student version simply had that button disabled!

We didn’t need to create the same course twice, and we could easily identify what information needed to be given as teaching aids. This also allowed the teacher to concentrate on going through the course using the teaching aids alone, while the students focused on the content that was being taught. You may ask, how can the teacher ignore the content being taught? They don’t!

Curious to learn more? Write to info@harbingergroup.com.

Using Course Interface as an Engagement Tool!

Course interfaces tend to become a bit monotonous these days. This has become even more common with the use of rapid interaction authoring tools, where the Graphical User Interface (GUI) is only customizable as far as their colors. The form, the shape, and method of interaction are all features that still need to be individually programmed and created from the ground up when they are needed.

We recently completed a course for a K12 provider who wanted to teach kids a chapter of history through the use of World War 2 photographs. Most of the solutions available had interfaces featuring Back and Next buttons, maybe fancy page number panels, or perhaps a spin-wheel with the various pages on them. There was nothing that could be used to blend into a story and give a more environmental connection to the content that was to be taught in the course.

Then it hit me! I remembered the old View-Masters we used to have and how we used to spend so much time as kids looking at various places or photographs through them, and thought to myself “Why can’t kids today experience the same thing?” Right there was the interface we were looking for! What better way to have attention focused on the photographs that were to be used as a medium for teaching this chapter on history? We created the course with this vision, if you’ll pardon the pun, and needless to say, the kids loved it!

We created a GUI that made it look like the learner was viewing the photographs on a View-Master, with the tip of the circular view-disk peeking out from the top. Clicking buttons on either side of the disk allowed the learner to move ahead. The content to be taught is accessed through push-buttons built onto the View-Master frame, allowing the learner to view the story behind the photograph as well as the things to be discussed regarding the photograph.

Want to share any such “WOW” moment in your course design? Post your comment here or write to info@harbingerknowledge.com.

Harbinger at the Training 2012 Conference & Expo

– An account by Mona Sharma, DGM – Projects, and Exhibitor at the Conference

Date: February 13-15, 2012

Venue: Atlanta, GA, at the Georgia World Congress Center

Visitor’s Profile: Professional trainers, consultants, and academics, HRD professionals and senior executives, Instructional designers & other related professionals.

Exhibitor’s Profile: Business Development Services, Training and Talent Development Services, Authoring and Publishing Platforms, Custom Content and Communication Services, Learning and Performance Services, Digital Literacy and Desktop Productivity Assessment Services, Train the Trainer Workshop and Consulting Services, Distance Learning, Employee Selection & Orientation, Ethics, Leadership Training, Motivation, Presentation Skills, Problem Solving, Project Management, Team Building & Performance, Videoconferencing, Writing Skills, Translation services, Training Documents Development Services.

The training 2012 conference & expo was an event designed for learning, training and performance professionals. It was a midsized conference with approximately 700 – 800 attendees. There were around 65-70 vendors exhibiting in the expo hall, a varied mix of vendors, providing content development services, transcription and translation services, technology solutions, train the trainer services, corporate training and corporate entertainment services too! It was very encouraging to witness that people worldwide were taking learning and training so seriously.

With the assurance that we were at the right place at the right time, we got busy with setting up the booth, the fun and creative part of the exhibition booth preparations, where we presented our eLearning Products and Custom Content Development Services.

We exhibited Raptivity, our interactivity building tool which allows you to quickly and easily create elearning interactions such as games, simulations, brainteasers etc. and embed them directly into your online courses. There are around 170+ interaction templates to choose from to make your elearning courses interactive.

Along with our products, Harbinger also presented its Custom Content services offerings. Visitors showed keen interest in experiencing our expertise in content development using Flash, HTML5, Lectora, Articulate, ToolBook and our own tools Elicitus and Raptivity. All our learning solutions got an overwhelming response.

 

Edumercials: One of our unique offerings was development of ‘Edumercials’- short for Educational Commercials, which are 5-6 minute self playing animations that are either story or scenario-based and put across a concept in an interactive way. Edumercials can be used as standalone just-in-time learning pieces or they can also be integrated within elearning courses to make the courses more engaging. Quite a few visitors signed up for the raffle to win a 5-minute free edumercial.

Single Source Solution for Mobile Learning: Our mobile learning conversations led us to discussions about the platform independent ‘Single Source’ solutions being offered for mobiles and laptops. The iPad demos and especially the interactive e-Book, was well appreciated by everyone. Many were surprised to see Flash based animations, video and audio integrated in an eBook developed in HTML5.

Interactive ILT: Some visitors who engaged in virtual classrooms or face to face training were interested in our Instructor Led Training services where in we offered to instructionally and visually enhance their presentations and develop facilitator and student notes for them.

We had an exclusive range of elearning samples for both desktop/laptop and mobile tablets ranging from Product, Process, Soft skill and Leadership and Management training to K-12 training. All these samples were also made available on our showcase so that they could be viewed at leisure. (https://showcase.harbingerknowledge.com/ ; Username: training2012-visitor; Password: password1!)

Visits by the Industry Expert: Well known speakers and thought leaders from the industry visited our booth and were impressed with our instructional approach and the apt use of interactivity in our courses.

The expo ended after two full days of meeting new people, interesting conversations and demos and assurances of exploring a new relationship with Harbinger! Through Harbinger I have attended other International Conferences in North America and visited customer sites for project discussions, however this was the first time I experienced being a presenter in the conference booth.

I would say I experienced a very different Valentine Day’s eve by connecting with many new people and prospects! I look forward to meet with them again in the next upcoming conferences!! Till then bye and enjoy the new ways of Learning!!!

How to Make Simulation Based Courses Engaging

It can be a real challenge to “engage” your learners in a simulation-based course. Traditional “Show me” and “Let me try” simulations, which are supposed to be guided learning methods are more like spoon-feeding rather than guidance. At the same time, you can’t really do away with the simulations, can you? So how do you make them more engaging and retain learners’ attention so they don’t just click-click-click through the course and get their completion certificates?

However I do believe that the same basics apply to all types of courses as far as “engagement” and “involvement” of the learners is concerned – and that is that one of the best ways to engage learners is to use context.

A typical simulation-based elearning course will have “show me” and “let me try” simulations with guidance at every step. However, once you have shown learners how to complete different tasks in the application, you could try including scenario based exercises instead of step-by-step ‘let me try’ simulations. Give the learner a scenario that they can relate to from their regular work-life, give them a task to complete and all the information they would need to complete that task in the application and then ask them to actually perform the steps to compete the task in the simulated environment. This will be much more engaging than giving them a step-list and asking them to perform the steps one by one!

Another way of engaging the learners is to have them do the “let me try” exercises within a game. So, once you present the learner with the information they need, and tasks they have to complete using that information, get them to use the “shortest possible route” within the application to complete the tasks. The more tasks they complete using the shortest route, the more the points!

For the “show me” demonstrations, try to use edumercials instead of just “Show me” simulations. Edumercials are 5-6 minute self playing animations that are either story or scenario-based and demonstrate the use of different features within an application. The demonstration is woven into the story or scenario to make it engaging.

So just a simple trick, like adding context to the simulations can make them more engaging. Does anyone have any more ideas on this?