A Primer for Content Managers 

Have you come across Doug’s post on LinkedIn? Lynda.com: What Content Managers Do (and Why They’re So Important)

Doug’s point about the behind the scenes effort of a Content Manager doesn’t communicate the severity of the need for content management.

“But the work of the content manager is never done. Beyond this, they have to make sure that every course in their library is up-to-date, or if additional releases need to be created for new versions of software, SDK, service, or device.”

If not done right the training becomes absolutely useless over night in the eyes of the learner. 10 years ago this wasn’t a problem. Organizations now need teams of people devoted to this to do this right. It is also difficult to get buy in for ROI upfront. But without this effort done right there will be no future projects and no people to train because your audiences ship has sailed. 

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How can we get our clients to play the “What If” game?

visualcalcCan we all agree that technology can sometimes be a double-edged sword? Some technology can cause people to lose their job because it is replaced by technology. Although, some technology can make new jobs possible. For example, according to Wikipedia, Dan Bricklin creator of VisiCalc, came up with the idea of an “electronic spreadsheet” during his time at Harvard. It was when he witnessed a professor’s difficulty updating a financial model due to an error on a blackboard. This simple 1980 green and black rendered spreadsheet which ran on the Apple 2 (which sold for only $99 btw) changed the world!

What happened is that VisiCalc both killed jobs and it created jobs. Before VisiCalc there were about 400,000 bookkeeping clerk jobs. But the efficient spreadsheet program went viral and both the industry and personal computer hobbyist all over the world ran out to buy the Apple 2 for $2000 to solve all of the spreadsheeting needs. What’s odd is that as these bookkeeping clerk jobs were going away, 600,000 accounting jobs were also added!

So while the number of bookkeepers and accounting clerks fell, the electronic spreadsheet actually made more jobs for regular accountants. As accounting essentially became cheaper, clients bought more accounting!

Where am I going with all of this? How does electronic spreadsheets relate to eLearning or Instructional Design? Well, their clients could start playing the “What If” game. What if we made our chocolate bars a little bit smaller? What if we made them 2 percent larger? Can we give everyone a raise this year? What if we started selling a lot of chocolate bars to China?

The “What If” game changed other industries as well. Doctors could now use it to do better calculations for anesthesiology during open heart surgery, casinos could now finally figure out where to put slot machines on the casino floor, and the “What If” game paved the way for the modern Wall Street.

Here is a question to ponder on what actually changed the world. Was it

A) The invention VisiCalc?
B) The inventor Dan Bricklin?
C) The general accountants?
D) The clients asking questions?

If you were to ask me, I would say that the answer would be both C and D. Here’s why. Innovation changes the world. Not the invention. It is the innovative use of the invention that makes the invention more than just $99 for an 8in floppy disk that puts black and green colors on the screen and animates when you click some buttons on a keyboard. It can either entertain a 2 year old kid from the 80’s for an hour or assist a doctor in choosing the right amount of medicine dosage for an open heart surgery patient. Clients didn’t just fire all of their accountants and buy Apple 2’s either. They would just collect dust in the corner of an office if someone didn’t know how to use them properly. The same is true for any other tool, e.g., hammers, hairdryers, and hamster wheels.

As our instructional design processes improve we could just give our clients a job-aid that tells them how to choose the right method of instruction. Perhaps even teach our clients how to use Captivate to develop some training. You know. Teach a man to fish and all that jazz. But true instructional designers know the value that they bring to the table when it comes to making decisions about learning, creating learning, deploying learning, etc. We just have to get our clients to see the value to and get them to play the “What If” game.

Inspiration for this post comes from NPR’s Planet Money Podcast, Episode 606: Spreadsheets!

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Designing Discomfort Into “Free” Games…

Airports purportedly design the baggage claim areas to be uncomfortable in order to minimize crowds. What are other examples where designers deliberately create an unhappy user experience? Check out Quora to see what others have been sharing. See, What are examples where designers intentionally design for discomfort?

Game designers involved with pay to play games have intentionally been designing “discomfort” into their games to get their consumers to pay. It isn’t always coercive monetization where consumers are tricked into making a purchase, but with enough motivation and discomfort they will highly consider paying to play. These apps for our phones might be free to download and play but eventually there will be enough discomfort that you will end up spending significant money over the life of the game perhaps.


For example, according to Leana Lofte on her Candy Crush Saga: It’s Bejeweled for ruining your life, there are the following discomforts:

  • you have a specific number of moves to complete a turn. If you are not successful you always have the option to buy more moves or start over
  • before each level you have the option to buy a booster that will increase your chances at beating the level
  • consumers can also buy charms that permanently give you boosts
  • if you run out of lives you can also buy more or wait 30 minutes to continue
  • to get past certain levels you are required to either spam your Facebook friends or purchase more levels

What are your thoughts about designing for discomfort? Does it make that $5 game more interesting to you if you don’t get advertisements and can play as much as you like?

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What are some ways to cut corners, save time, and be more efficient at developeing eLearning?

TETRRF-00029505-001Be sure that you check out Google’s UX designer, Michael Margolis, tips on productive design (see Google Ventures On 8 Shortcuts For Better, Faster Design Research). Do these apply to eLearning or instructional design? Of course they do 🙂

Start at the end: What questions do you want to answer?
Before you do any work on a research study, clarify what you want to get out of it. For example, would it be most useful to figure out:

  • Can new customers understand and figure out how to use the product?
  • What are customers’ existing workflow and pain points?
  • What are pros/cons of competitive products?
  • What are customers’ attitudes?
  • How satisfied are existing customers with the product?
  • How does new customers’ usage change over time?
  • Which design performs better?

When you know which answers you’re after, it’s quicker to choose the most efficient way to find them–by picking an appropriate research method (survey, A/B test, literature review, usability interviews, site visits, etc.), and the right segment of customers to study.

Get feedback from customers early and often
Even if your product’s trajectory is off by a little, you could miss your target by a lot. It’s always easier to correct course earlier before you’ve strayed too far.

Check whether someone else has already done your research for you
Whether you’re curious about how teens use mobile video, or trying to decide whether to rely on keyboard shortcuts, use these tips for lean market research to dig up the results from someone else’s hard work and expertise.

Make re-usable templates
To reduce time it takes to recruit research participants, use templates for recruiting questionnaires and various confirmation emails.

Create (and use!) good checklists
See this summary of The Checklist Manifesto or watch this five-minute video summary of Gawande’s book. Effective checklists have specific tasks with time estimates.

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How will social media change the #WorldCup?

The World Cup officially kicked off yesterday! While I am not a fan of soccer or sports in general I am interested to see the effects of social media on such a major social event. Twitter has been planning ahead to avoid another crash like what happened with the 2014 Oscars.  They are also allowing users to choose your sides for the event by picking a team to unlock custom profile images, header photos, real-time scores and highlights (see Twitter & WorldCup). I wonder what the most popular tweet will be? Based on what happened on Twitter during Sochi it will probably be during an epic game in the final rounds (Does soccer have a final round? I have no idea 🙂

I heard from Google yesterday that they have already been looking into search data and found some interesting trends and insights about this global event. http://goo.gl/EuFhp0

twitter_worldcupGoogle shared that this year’s World Cup will be a huge global moment.  “The World Cup is the largest, most connected global sporting event. Worldwide, it has more interest on Google Search than the big game, the Olympics, and the Tour de France combined. If you’re looking to reach an audience of sports fans—from the crazed to the casual—the opportunity doesn’t get any bigger. ”

Check out Think Google’s article for more information on the data that they are seeing and I know we are all looking forward to seeing how such a global event will be impacted by social media and perhaps change the future of social media.

But what does this mean for eLearning? Check out two key posts:

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Using digital stories in elearning

If you are not grounding the learner in a story that they can apply to their lives, what are you doing?

Making a difference


Digital stories are a quick meaningful way to get a message across. They are stories told using technology that include a combination of images and audio to tell a tale.

Digital stories have advantages in that you can get a consistent message across to many people, the story can be viewed at anytime and at any location. You can also get very creative with your story and key messages by using images and audio to engage your audience and draw them into your story.

Digital stories are a great way to get difficult concepts across, they are excellent for showing how different parts of an organisation or job task work together. They are also a great way to learn from other’s experiences without having to make the same mistakes.

So what does a good digital story look like?

Well first of all you can access the story on your computer but after that it…

View original post 180 more words

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Check Out Stanford Online’s 2013 In Review Report

stanford_logoBe sure to check out “Stanford Online: 2013 in Review.” For a quick summary of the report, check out Campus Technology’s article, Stanford Report Shares Snapshot of Online Learning.

The report discusses that since fall 2012 they have delivered four million hours of instruction via Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). These courses take place on three different LMS platforms: Coursera, NovoEd and Stanford OpenEdX. They also discuss how their efforts to improve teaching and learning are much broader than MOOCs, i.e., experiments in technology-driven and experiential education are occurring in every corner Stanford. They over the last few years have been attempting to answer the following questions:

  • How can we help students learn more effectively?
  • How can we better leverage classroom time?
  • How can technology enable educators to better meet the needs of particular learners?

What great questions for us all to attempt to answer. Check out the report to see how they have tried to answer them over the last few years. But more importantly, how has your institution attempted to answer them. I hope to here your thoughts in the comments.

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A Lesson Plan for eLearning

cisco_eLearningI came across Harold Jarche‘s blog today where he discussed, a brief history education delivered via The Internet, see Learning is Connecting.  Check it out.

He also shared a link to an article from Fast Company in 2000, Cisco’s Quick Study that discusses using the Web to reinvent training inside the world’s most Internet-centric big company, Cisco. I have included a snibit of the article below that discusses what Tom Kelly learned about eLearning back in 2000 and how it’s changing the style and the substance of training at Cisco Systems. What great incite Tom Kelly shared in 2000 and these are still trends and issues that we are discussing in 2014.

A version of this article appeared in the October 2000 issue of Fast Company magazine written by @AnnaMuoio.

A Lesson Plan for eLearning

Tom Kelly, VP of worldwide training at Cisco Systems, works inside the world’s most Internet-centric big company. So it’s no surprise that he champions Web-based education — “e-learning” — and that he and his team operate at the cutting edge of the field. Kelly may be in the early stages of his work, but he has already learned some important lessons.

Small is beautiful
One problem with how most companies deliver information is that they expect people to spend too much time at one sitting. We work in a world of limited attention spans, unlimited demands on people’s time, and endless multitasking, Kelly says. Learning programs have to reflect these realities: “Most e-learning is still anchored in the mind-set that learning means going somewhere for 8 hours at a time to study a 40-hour curriculum. We may have a 40-hour curriculum, but we deliver it in 20-minute chunks, or even faster. That makes it easier for people to build learning into their workday.”

Blends are powerful.
“E-learning does not imply the absence of human beings,” Kelly argues. “We recently did a workshop where there were 40 people in a physical classroom, plus 60 people online in other parts of the United States and Europe. All 100 people were engaged in a lesson with a live instructor at the same time. It was a real classroom combined with a virtual classroom. We took the outcome of that, digitized some of the video and audio, and put it online so that people who couldn’t participate could later access the information and ideas. The best solutions are often blended solutions.”

Measure what matters.
“The real measures of success here at Cisco do not involve training issues: ‘Do our people learn better?’ They involve business issues: ‘Is Cisco performing better?’ There’s certainly no arguing the altruistic side of education — that well-trained people are more valuable than untrained people. But that’s kind of esoteric. If customer satisfaction goes up because we have a more knowledgeable sales force, that’s not esoteric. If technology adoption occurs faster because the sales force is better-trained, we have real business impact that’s measurable. That’s the real benefit of e-learning, and that’s what we have to measure.”

New technologies require new leaders.
“One real problem with e-learning is that traditional training people are in charge of it,” Kelly says. “You’ve got people who have spent 20 years in lecture-lab environments, and now they’re deploying e-learning inside their companies. No wonder it doesn’t work! Can you imagine if the post office was in charge of email?”

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How To Dethrone Google, and Who Will Likely Do It (Hint: Not Facebook)

Really enjoyed your post @derekbrown. As Google already is, they must fight to maintain the value that they have built for their market. But what I believe sets them apart from the Yahoos and Microsofts that they have surpassed with leaps and bounds is that they are risking being innovative to add new value to what they offer. Google understands that to be successful in the tech world they must maintain value but also add value. For more on this notion of “adding value” see my recent post, How are you going to “add new value” to your eLearning?

Originally posted by Derek Brown on LinkedIn How To Dethrone Google, and Who Will Likely Do It (Hint: Not Facebook).

google_driverless_carIn case you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last 24 hours, Google recently released news regarding a new pilot program for their driverless cars. This news of Google’s innovative big idea was posted on their blog, sandwiched between posts about machine learning and trends that they’ve found in recent searches. There’s no doubt about it:

Google is one of the most innovative, progressive, and dominant companies that capitalism has ever seen.

So can others compete? That part is fairly easy. Look at the likes of Yahoo and Microsoft. They are still in the advertising, search, and mail sectors, competing for second place. They are alive and sustaining, even under the giant’s shadow.

But merely competing isn’t enough. Someone will dethrone Google, not just compete with them. For every Goliath, there is a David.

The question is not “can others compete”, but rather “how to dethrone Google?”. Here are my thoughts on the question, one that has plagued me for years now:

  • Change the rules of engagement. No one will beat Google at their own game of traditional search, a great email client, aggregation of video content, or a robust advertising stream. It simply won’t happen. They are too far ahead in terms of talent and data. Microsoft wasn’t dethroned; the ruling kingdom changed. This same idea can, and likely will, happen to Google.
  • Embrace the things that favor the underdog. Two things work in the underdog’s favor: the unpredictability of future innovation and the explosion of mobile computing. The prevalence of mobile computing is changing the way people search, and no one has yet to completely figure this one out…including Google. Much less there are still complete industries that are being born that could radically change Google’s clutch on the world of data. From natural language processing to computational search to artificial intelligence to wearable computing, there is still a lot of innovation to be had. All it takes is one game-changer to allow someone else to compete.
  • Big ideas will outweigh and outlast small, incremental changes. There are companies that are trying to iterate on an existing idea who are trying to compete with Google. This category includes the Yahoos and Microsofts of the world. Hear me loud and clear: they are still playing Google’s game, and have already lost. Yahoo Mail and Bing may pay some bills, but they are not revolutionizing the industry any time soon. What will carry a lot more weight in battling Google’s iron clasp on the internet will be big, revolutionary ideas. Artificial intelligence, wearable technology, and similar ideas are radical game changers.

The Fun Part: Who Can Do It? My Picks for Contenders

Whoa. Wait. Hear me out. Watson is one of those game-changing ideas in an innovative field (artificial intelligence). And to boot, IBM knows it. If IBM were to start thinking about the consumer market with regards to Watson’s technology, it could be industry-shifting. Think about having the power of Watson in a consumer phone, tablet, or wearable. Plus, the idea of a legacy company coming back from behind in the 4th quarter is a great story. They know how to handle data, they know what it’s like to be on top of the industry, and they have ambition to possibly get them there. Hopefully they’re not just focusing on the enterprise market.

This isn’t just some off the wall pick, nor is Wolfram’s ambitions simply creating a search engine for computational queries. Check out this site regarding the Wolfram language or view it in action. Knowledge based programming is another big idea that could change the way that the game is played. Now, no company can be formed based on the proliferation of a language. That said, the creators of a language have a significant advantage in how to use it for economic gain. The idea of not just holding and controlling the source of knowledge, but holding and controlling the display of it is completely revolutionary.

You can disagree with me vehemently (in the comments!), but Twitter has much more staying power than Facebook. Real-time search is going to be the next big thing in terms of finding information. Twitter has the capacity and data to execute this idea well. They have a social graph of sorts, but more importantly, they have access to real-time data. Twitter leverages the mobile platform extraordinarily well, and are positioned to to take advantage of the platform better than any other company at this point. The question for Twitter is whether or not they have the next leap-and-bounds innovation in mind, or if they are are simply making small incremental changes on their existing platform. The answer to that question remains to be seen.

So what do you think? Can Google be dethroned? Who will do it?


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Is It Possible That Online Students Want To Talk To Each Other?

Students-talkingLast week I shared a snibit from Mat Honan’s article which I also have included below and discussed that our eLearners are social. If you are interested in this topic, check out my tag, Social Presence.

As The Internet has improved over the years we now are able to communicate with each other in many different ways. As we all know, this occurs globally… all around the world. We can experience these events in real time. We are no longer just watching world events like the moon landing of 1971 in the isolation of our homes. We can experience these events with everyone in the planet.

Originally written by Mat Honan on Wired Magazine. May 2014

During the Sochi Olympics, peak tweet volume hit during a live hockey shoot-out that pitted the US against Russia. Both countries were tuning in and cheering through their devices, despite a massive time-zone discrepancy. And this year’s Oscars were the most-watched in 14 years, even wih our DVRs and other entertainment options. Maybe we just wanted to talk.

Consider the following tweet that Mat mentions above that apparently broke Twitter. Here is an embed so that you can see the most up to date retweets and favorites:


Perhaps this is what caused the 2014 Oscars was the most watched in 14 years? I wonder why? What you also may not know is that most of this action occurred within 15 minutes of broadcast, i.e., there were Retweets 1,019,570 & Favorites 289,727. No wonder Twitter crashed. Why is this? Maybe we just wanted to talk with each other?

What does this mean for eLearning? Or perhaps a better question is what is happening here that isn’t happening in our eLearning?

While an instructional event isn’t quite the same as the Oscars, but maybe it is? Students getting together online to learn? Why shouldn’t it be a social event? What can an instructor do so that they can get Retweets 1,019,570 & Favorites 289,727 in 15 minutes?

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