Innovations at DevLearn DemoFest: The Experience API

Posted by Jim Farrell

While flying high above the Grand Canyon on my way home from this year’s eLearning Guild DevLearn Conference, I took some time to reflect on how much I learned there.

Being a former instructional designer, I’ve always regarded DevLearn as one of my favorite conferences to attend. This year’s conference returned to the Aria Hotel in Las Vegas, where Robert De Niro and Morgan Freeman were shooting a movie — but that is a story for another time.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Embracing Technologies for Training and Development”. The opening keynote was delivered by the famous movie producer John Landau (Avatar, Titanic, and many more). At first glance you might think, “What does a famous movie producer have to do with learning?” But Mr. Landau found the connection very quickly: it’s innovation. He told stories of James Cameron and how he did not let the technology of today limit the dreams of a better tomorrow. To see how they took James Cameron’s vision of Avatar and created technologies to realize the dream was truly inspiring.

The best part of the DevLearn Conference is DemoFest. If you have never been lucky enough to attend DevLearn, let me briefly describe it to you: Attendees submit proposals to show off their coolest stuff. This year the ballroom was full of innovative ideas, and we were lucky enough to be invited to show what we are working on. We demonstrated using the Experience API with Questionmark Assessments.

Before I get into the Experience API, let’s talk about a problem facing most organizations: tracking informal learning. If you are frequent visitor to this blog, you know I am big believer in the 70+20+10 model.

This model states that only 10 percent of our learning is from formal study — and in most organizations, this learning is locked away in the Learning Management System (LMS). Seventy percent of our learning occurs from experience basically doing our jobs. The last 20 percent comes from working with others, be it coaching or conversations. If 90 percent of learning is happening outside of the Learning Management System, how do we capture information on performance, social and informal learning?

The Experience API is the next generation of SCORM led by the ADL (Advanced Distributed Learning) and built by a consortium of companies including Questionmark. The Experience API goes beyond the launch-and- track world of the LMS and allows learning content to send activity statements about a learner and activity to a Learning Record Store (LRS). The LRS can be used to create visualizations of data or analyzed to determine how informal learning is shaping a workforce. If you want to learn more about the Experience API, visit this ADL site.

So where do assessments fit into this? Let me give you two quick examples:

  • You could use the Experience API to send activity statements when someone visits an internal white paper, knowledge base article or help file. Does this really tell you if the person understood or better yet even read the information? Not really. Using our auto-sense, auto-size technology, you can embed a short quiz within the learning material. This does not show the visitor mastered the information, but it will give you an idea if the material was understood.
  • One of the best tools an organization can implement is regular quizzing. So let’s set up a scenario. Your business partner approaches you and says that a new error code has been introduced. There has been training but your partner is not sure the organization is truly ready to apply it. A short quiz can be sent via email (or embedded in a business portal). Using the Experience API, responses to the quiz could be sent to the LRS and a visualization of the organization’s performance could be posted to a website. This would reassure your partner that the organization is ready or it can identify knowledge gaps that need to be addressed.

Questionmark has been a longtime supporter of Open Standards including AICC, PENS, SCORM, HR-XML IMS QTI and now the Experience API. You may also be interested in the recent announcement of AICC/ADL collaboration.

Conference Close-up: Silke Fleischer on Design Strategies for Mobile Devices

Posted by Joan Phaup

Mobile assessment is high on the list of topics we’ll be discussing at the Questionmark Users Conference March 15 -18. Silke Fleischer, a co-founder of ATIV Software, will show attendees how to create materials that work well on mobile devices and manage their limitations during her talk on Getting the Most from a Small Screen: Design strategies for mobile devices.

Silke Fleischer

Silke has been a featured speaker at several national and international conferences of organizations such as the eLearning Guild and ASTD, and we’re very pleased she’ll be joining us in Los Angeles. I spoke with her recently about her work and her plans for presenting at the conference:

Q:   Could you tell me about your work at ATIV software?
A: We develop mobile applications for events and eLearning. Our core EventPilot application is a support system for conferences, events and meetings, and we are working on a mobile course app that helps training departments reduce printing costs for instructor-led training. We also do custom mobile development. In case you are wondering about how we got our company name, it stands for innovATIVe, creATIVe, alternATIVe!

Q: What trends are you seeing in mobile learning and assessment?
A: There are more than 700,000 smartphones sold per day, and learning is very convenient on them. More and more standard eLearning content is now being made available and optimized for mobile devices, especially with the technology getting better and screen resolutions larger. That’s not to say that classroom training is going away! You have to have the face-to-face interaction. I think we will see a marriage between mobile and the classroom.

One interesting trend is the use of mobile delivery within Instructor-Led Training (ILT) to cut printing and reduce budgets for handouts and course materials. Our upcoming course app, for instance, allows learners to log in and download all course-related PowerPoint presentations on an iPad and take notes directly on the device to a particular slide. When the course is over, they can take their assessment using Questionmark’s iPad App and also send themselves an email with notes and marked items for easy reference about what they have learned. Also, you can update content on the fly and integrate social aspects such as your training blog or company messaging system. This approach can save thousands of dollars in printing costs for large organizations over the year.

Q: What are the key elements that need to be considered in designing and implementing mobile assessment?
A: Mobile devices are unlike desktop computers or laptops. The smaller screen, for example, limits some types of training and assessments. You also have to consider software and hardware. On the software side, you might have to find new ways of creating interactive content if there is no Flash player available  When it comes to hardware, even though devices are very fast these days, their performance is still dependent on the processors and on memory limitations, so you will want to invest in good programmers. Wifi and cell reception requirements should be analyzed, and you can also look at native versus hybrid versus web apps. The amazing new capabilities outweigh the limitations. Today’s mobile devices make new training paradigms possible and enable instructional designers to use motion sensing and location-based services, cameras and advanced touch screens.

Q: What will you be sharing during your presentation at the Questionmark Users Conference?
A: Since mobile devices have such a small screens we will be talking about design and development approaches. I’ll be offering some basic guidelines to help attendees get started with small screen design and content presentation. An important aspect of this will be the fact that the screens aren’t only used for displaying content, but also for navigation with your fingers. I’ll be sharing some workarounds that will help people overcome the challenges presented by small screens.

Q: What are you looking forward to at the conference?
A: I’m eager to learn about other trends in learning and assessments, which I think will help me get inspired with new ideas for 2011. And of course it will be great to network with others  and share ideas. I’m really excited about going to the conference!

We’re looking forward to the conference, too, and hope you will check out the program and register soon!

Being a Good SME Wrangler

jim_smallPosted by Jim Farrell

I was recently demonstrating Questionmark Live to one of our customers and he was telling me about the “Data Wrangler” job in animated movies. Basically the person’s job is to collect all the work from the animators. So all of you Instructional Designers now have a new role to add to your resume…SME Wrangler. It might actually be one of your more taxing and complicated duties.

newwaycowboyoldwaycowboyThe ELearning Guild recently held an online forum titled “To SME or Not to SME: Tips for Working with your Customer and your Team.” I loved the title, but I think  “How to be a Good SME Wrangler” has a little more bite. As learning professionals we have to wear many different hats and foster different relationships. The relationship you have with your SMEs can often make or break your training program. One of the presentations touched on seven tools of the trade for working successfully with SMEs. The number one item on the list was resources. They mainly discussed having a well thought out design document and project plan, but I immediately thought about Questionmark Live. What better way to establish a relationship with the experts in your company than to give them a tool that not only empowers them to transfer their knowledge but also immediately involves them in creating deliverables that will be used by their peers?

Make sure that when you take a look at Questionmark Live you think of your role as a SME Wrangler and how this tool could help you foster a successful relationship with your SMEs.