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…

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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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