Conference Close-up: Using mobile devices for sales training and testing

Posted by Joan Phaup

The idea of using mobile devices for learning and assessment sparks many lively conversations these days – and we’re looking forward to discussing this subject during the Questionmark Users Conference March 20 – 23 in New Orleans.

Among those who can talk about this in detail is Barry Jass from Covidien Vascular Therapies, where Apple iPads and iPhones are used for sales training, product knowledge tests and observational assessments.

I enjoyed asking Barry about the case study he’ll be presenting at the conference.

Barry Jass

Barry Jass

Can you tell me about your job role?

I am the sales training manager in charge of elearning and curriculum development for our peripheral vascular division. I develop curriculum for the various products we have to keep our sales force up to the date on — new features, new indications, new product design and usage.

What do you think are the biggest challenges of training itinerant sales people?

I think the greatest challenge is that most people in sales don’t have much time. They are busy with their customers! For example, our sales force works directly with doctors; they’re serving as consultants for the use of our devices, so they don’t have much time for extended learning. They need the learning, but it’s hard for them to find the time to dedicate to it.

What will you cover during your presentation?

I’m going to talk about the concepts involved in training somebody through a mobile device. I think that’s a big issue for curriculum designers who’ve grown up thinking the computer was the greatest thing in training. Now we have tablets and smartphones!  Very different rules are necessary to make learning effective on a small device like a phone. It is more than simply taking already existing learning modules and making them available on a person’s phone.  I want to talk about how you plan learning and assessments that work on mobile devices. If there are people in the audience who are already using mobile assessments, I’ll want them to share their ideas throughout the session.

I’ll talk about the principles, but I’ll also give participants the chance to make an assessment or survey right there on the spot that can be used immediately. I’d like people to bring their phones and tablets with them so they can try this out using Questionmark OnDemand. I think that if you’re going to use the smartphone or tablet to view something, you should also be able to create it using the same tool.

Do you have any quick pointers for people pondering a move to mobile assessments?

My favorite quote is by Blaise Pascal: “The present letter is a very long one, simply because I had no leisure to make it shorter.” One of the hardest things to do is to make something short! We tend to create modules that are 45 minutes or an hour long, but for mobile learning these modules should be no more than five minutes. You also have to think about short assessments – say 3 questions instead of 10! That’s a big challenge, and it takes a lot more planning and development than a learning that would take place through your computer.

What do want people to take away from your session?

I hope they will learn that m-learning is here to stay. It’s not going back to the bigger screen: it’s going to a smaller screen. I think we have to embrace that and make those changes now or we’ll be left behind as instructional designers and curriculum writers.

I hope I can show participants how easy it is to use new technologies to create mobile learning and assessments.  I hope to give them some clear principles to work with as well as the chance to put them into action.

What are you most looking forward to about the conference?

Getting together with other people and hearing what they’re doing. I want to know the latest and greatest that’s out there because I always want to be on the cutting edge.


Want to get together with your colleagues and be on the cutting edge, too?  Register for the conference soon!

Conference Close-up: Using Questionmark to Reinforce Learning within SharePoint

Posted by Joan Phaup

Questionmark Chairman John Kleeman

We’re especially pleased to have Questionmark Founder and Chairman John Kleeman on board as one of our best practice presenters at this year’s Questionmark Users Conference. As the person who wrote the original Questionmark software, John has more than 20 years’ experience in the learning industry and has participated in several industry standards initiatives. Lately he has been turning his energies to interfacing with other thought leaders and understanding the dramatic changes that are taking place in how people learn and the increasingly important role assessment is playing within learning.

John’s conference presentation on Using Questionmark Perception to Make SharePoint an Effective Learning Platform will show how participants can use Questionmark assessments within SharePoint to measure and reinforce learning, using both products out of the box. Here’s a quick Q&A about his plans for that session:

Q: Could you talk a little about SharePoint and its growing role in learning, training and compliance?
A: The great thing about SharePoint is that it’s a really easy system for putting together websites, without needing programmers. If you want to put up learning material or training material it’s easy to do so with SharePoint. And at least half of companies and universities already have SharePoint, so it’s easy for people to make things happen quickly.  With the improvements in SharePoint 2010, in blogs and wikis, and with stronger version tracking making it more useful for compliance, there’s growing application of SharePoint in learning and training.

Q: How do you envision Questionmark enhancing learning for SharePoint users?
A: There’s a lot of evidence that people who answer questions after learning something tend to remember it better; that if you take a quiz then it gives you retrieval practice to stop you forgetting what you have learned. By embedding an assessment on a learning page you allow people to get retrieval practice, and you can also check their comprehension of what they have been read. They can check their own knowledge, and you can also look at the aggregate results to see how well people have understood something. If you see a question that people consistently get wrong, you can identify misconceptions and improve the content. This takes very little work, so putting Questionmark assessments on a page in SharePoint or other systems is a fantastic combination.

Q: How could Questionmark be used to measure social learning within SharePoint?
The majority of what people learn happens on the job and in learning from colleagues and mentors, not in formal learning. It’s social learning. SharePoint is so prevalent in many organizations that it’s a great way to share news and information or process documents. Putting a knowledge check on a page is a great way to see how much people are absorbing. Breaking up larger assessments into smaller chunks that relate to specific parts of a page is a great way to reinforce this kind of learning – just-in-time and just-enough assessments.  SharePoint is a set of building blocks that you can put together to help learning, and you can just mash in assessments to fit your needs.

Q: How easy is it for someone to incorporate a Questionmark assessment within SharePoint? What tools make this possible?
A: If you’ve got Questionmark Perception version 5, it’s really easy, because of the auto-sensing and auto-sizing capability. Perception can sense the size of the frame it’s running in and automatically fit an assessment into the space. You just use SharePoint to determine the size of the frame or window you want to use and put the Questionmark quiz into that space. SharePoint is an end user tool, so people can just configure SharePoint in a browser and put things together themselves.

Q: Have you come across any interesting examples of assessments being used with SharePoint?
A: I think a lot of people are finding that putting training programs into SharePoint saves them a lot of money. I found one example of a large company that had a training program that would have cost them $600,000 to provide face-to-face. In SharePoint it cost $45,000. It’s a very practical system to get something up and running within a few days.

Q: What do you expect participants  to gain from this session?
A:  I’d love participants to be able to go back to their organizations, find their SharePoint installation and start putting assessments into it. You don’t have to be a technical wizard to do this. It doesn’t require help from IT. It doesn’t require technical skills, you can just go do it.  Anyone who comes to the session, I promise they will know how to put an assessment into SharePoint.

Take advantage of the early-bird registration discount and save $100 by registering for the conference by January 21st.