Tag Archives: eLearning

The 1960’s called, they want their training back!

How are you designing your training these days? Does it look like training did in the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s? Times have changed, keep up. Get your training up-to-date! It should not only look good, but it should be effective. Train for today’s world, not yesterday’s.

There is no excuse to be using old methodologies, old design and old technology for training. Those of us in the business of Learning and Development strive to help learners learn. But sometimes we might be the impediments to orchestrating learning. The more poorly-designed training and eLearning out there, the worse it looks for our whole industry. The more crap training we put out there, the more people avoid attending training or going through eLearning. Some have started resisting “pushed” learning like the plague. Don’t give training and eLearning a bad rap, redesign your old stuff.

People like Julie Dirksen, Michael Allen, Clark Quinn, and Will Thalheimer started preaching this stuff when they wrote their Serious eLearning Manifesto back in 2014. They worked hard to get people on-board in order to produce more effective training. Kudos to them for bringing this to light. Part of effectiveness of learning is producing training for today and not yesterday.

Just when I see so much good and progress in our industry of learning and development, then I see so many examples of careless design and training thrown together and they call it training. Poor design and totally ineffective. Stop wasting people’s precious time. Come on, let’s all get on-board and turn this around.


The Time Has Come – eLearning!

A case for changing from e-Learning to eLearning.

Language is such a fluid thing. It’s constantly changing. It never stands still. In France, they have the Académie française that has the official authority on usages, vocabulary and grammar of the French language and to publish official dictionaries. These are basically a group of people who sit down and determine the use of words and how words change over time. We don’t have anything like that here in the United States. But the fact is, we have words that change over time—especially the ones that are used more and more frequently. For example, take email. Originally, it started out as e mail. Then it morphed into e-mail and now it’s changed into a “closed compound” word by eliminating the hyphen and becoming email.

Per The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, there is a “trend toward closed compounds.” They go on to say, “With frequent use, open or hyphenated compounds tend to become closed. …” Another example of this is “on-line” which has become, over time, “online.”

Apple takes this concept to a whole different level with their iAnything! They have their iPad, iPhone, iWatch and maybe tomorrow’s iLunchBox. They don’t hyphenate it. They imply high-tech with the use of a small case “i” in front of their products. We have already taken learning into high-tech and have been doing this for years and years. I’m not implying we should have iLearning; that will be held for Apple to fight for that one, I’m certain. But let’s update this overly-hyphenated word, eLearning, and update it for this millennium.

eLearning has been around long enough. Many have already switched to eLearning, like Lynda.com and eLearning Magazine. Meanwhile, there are those who use both and those who are stuck with the omni-present hyphen. I say it’s high time we move forward to eLearning. Enough time has passed; it’s time to put the hyphen to rest.

The train has left the station, so get on board. Besides, there’s also mLearning to contend with. But that will have to be for another day.

Test Your Responsive Content with Little or No Budget

Businessman with tablet

Source: iStock/Thinkstock

So, you have all of these great tools for creating responsive content like maybe Adobe Captiv
ate, Adobe RoboHelp, GoMo Learning or Elucidat, to name a few. But, let’s say you don’t have web space to run a good test with mobile devices. Yes, there are some mobile device simulators, but they may not be as accurate at testing mobile as you would like. Or, you could pay for website space just to test your content but, maybe that’s not in your budget. Well, here’s another solution: create your own FREE webserver for testing.

Yes, this is the eNerd part of me coming out! But, if you follow these instructions, you can have your free testing web server up and running in less than 35 minutes. This involves downloading and installing an open-source web server and using your laptop or PC as your web server. There are other tools you can use, but I used Apache Tomcat for my open-source server.

Here’s how to do it step by step.

  1. Download and install Java JDK if you don’t already have it on your machine. A quick Google search will find this. (Make sure you get the version for the type of machine you’re using. For example, I used a Windows 64-bit version.)
  2. Download Apache Tomcat. You can get this from http://tomcat.apache.org. I used Tomcat 8.0.
  3. Install Tomcat in its own directory (folder). Example of Tomcat directory
  4. Configure environment variables. Sounds hard, but it isn’t.
    For Windows, open your Control Panel and select System. (I’m using Windows 8, but other Windows versions would be similar.)
    Select Advanced system settings.System Properties box
  5. Click the Environment Variables button.
    Here you add two environment variables. Click the New button under System variables. Create the JAVA_HOME variable similar to the following . (You can copy and paste your JDK path here for the value.)
    JAVA_HOME variableNext, create the JRE_HOME variable in the same way. (Again, you can copy and paste your JRE path for the value.)
    JRE_HOME variableClick OK for both of the above variables, and click OK to close your Environment Variables box and once more for the System Properties box.
  6. If you have responsive content already created and ready to test, copy your responsive content folder and paste it under the webapps folder within your tomcat folder.In the above example, my eLearning content folder is called “DET_test”. I copied the entire folder under the webapps folder.
  7. Start your Tomcat server.
    Go to your apache-tomcat-version folder, then to the bin folder. Double-click the startup.bat file. This will open a DOS (command) box. Leave this open while you’re running Tomcat, but you can minimize it to get it out of your way.
  8. Find your machine’s IP address.
    Open a command prompt (Run – cmd). Type ipconfig and press Enter. Your IP address will display in the command box. Jot down your IP address; you’ll need this for your web content URL. Then you can close that command prompt.
  9. Test 1 – See if you can access your content from your own laptop/PC.
    Open a browser window and type the following for the URL:
  10. Test 2 – Test your responsive content from your mobile device.
    Note that you must be on the same network as your laptop. For example, when I do this at work, I need to use a VPN app (like Cisco AnyConnect for example) from my iPhone to connect to my work’s network.Open your browser app from your smartphone or tablet and type in the same URL as you did above.If this does not work from your phone, you might need to temporarily turn off your firewall on your tomcat server machine. Just make sure you turn it back on later.
  11. When finished, you can stop Tomcat by double-clicking the shutdown.bat file in your bin folder or just close the open Tomcat Java window.

Note that if you test on another day, your IP address could change, especially for a laptop that uses a dynamic IP address. You might have to use ipconfig again to find out your IP address on any given day. Also, you cannot use a machine name in place of an IP address with mobile devices. It will work on a laptop or desktop, but not with your mobile device.

I use this solution for testing our eLearning tutorials and our responsive help systems. You will probably see some differences between what you see on an iPad, for instance, versus an iPhone. These types of anomalies don’t typically show up in mobile device simulators. That’s why I use this method instead.

Try this solution if you need to test responsive content on mobile devices with little to no budget!

What We Heard: The Four Biggest eLearning Buzzwords of 2013

The year 2014 has commenced, the polar vortex moved in and now some of us are in the grand thaw. Many of us are just getting started with our new eLearning initiatives for the year. But before we proceed, perhaps we should take a few moments to reflect back on 2013.

Happy New Year

Source: Microsoft Office Gallery

Wow, last year we really saw some strides being made, and some bright spots of eLearning picked up some speed. Unless you lived under a rock in 2013, the following terms should sound familiar:

  • MOOCs
  • xAPI
  • Gamification
  • Digital Badges

MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses, were not new in 2013, but the topic was seen everywhere: eLearning articles, blogs and magazines. It was definitely a “hot” topic this past year. Blackboard’s CourseSites has over 50 MOOC courses available. Coursera, the leading online host of MOOCs, today boasts that 6,009, 077 people have taken MOOCs on its site. They currently offer 563 courses in the MOOC format—amazing! More and more people are creating and taking MOOCs. I got on the MOOC bandwagon last year and took my first MOOC along with over 66,000 other people for the same course. That just makes my jaw drop. Massive education by some of the top professors—again, amazing!

Experience API (xAPI, formerly known as Tin Can API) also popped up in hundreds of articles. The Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative’s training and learning architecture, xAPI, gained ground this past year with more and more eLearning tools becoming early adopters of xAPI like Adobe Captivate, Articulate Storyline, Blackboard, iSpring, CourseMill, Lectora, LearnDash and dominKnow to name just a few. Experience API, per Wikipedia, is an eLearning “software specification that allows learning content and learning systems to speak to each other in a manner that records and tracks all types of learning experiences.” This even allows us to track informal learning, which we haven’t been able to do before.

Gamification, the use of game thinking, design and mechanics in non-game contexts, has also been around for a few years, but it was plastered all over eLearning newsletters, infographics, blogs and articles last year. We’re seeing an increase of gamification being used to better engage learners and to make them more interested in their eLearning. Companies like NTT Data and DeLoitte’s Leadership Academy are successfully using gamification in their eLearning programs. (See the Forbe’s article http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeannemeister/2013/09/30/gamification-in-leadership-development-how-companies-use-gaming-to-build-their-leader-pipeline/. )

Digital Badges, like Mozilla’s OpenBadges, is an idea that is slowly taking hold; however, the topic was found in a plethora of places in 2013. Digital Badges, per Wikipedia, are “a validated indicator of accomplishment, skill, quality or interest that can be earned in various learning environments.” They’re basically online icons that represent the skills a person has earned. This means that an employer can get a quick glimpse at what you’ve accomplished from not only colleges, but other types of valuable training you’ve taken. The Manufacturing Institute has driven the development of the National Manufacturing Badge System this past year to help fill the gaping hole of manufacturing positions that are going unfilled due to there not being enough qualified or trained people. The system’s purpose is to help match qualified job-seekers with manufacturing employers.

Yes, 2013 was an exciting year for eLearning, and I expect that 2014 will come up with some new, different buzzwords to help move us along to get better trained for the new challenges of 2014.

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My Second MOOC Experience: MOOC on Mozilla Open Badges

I started my second MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) September 9th. The format and how this MOOC is being run is a totally different experience from my first MOOC. The first MOOC I took was hosted by Coursera. This one is hosted by Blackboard’s CourseSites. The topic of this MOOC is “Badges: New Currency for Professional Credentials.” My first thought was, I’m glad this wasn’t my first MOOC or I would have never continued.


The “M” in MOOC is for massive. That is supposed to mean thousands and thousands for most of the MOOCs I’ve read about. My last MOOC had over 65,000 people enrolled. This one has a little over 1,400. Not so massive.

Session/Video Format

The Gamification MOOC that I took provided small-chunked videos for each week’s session. These were pre-recorded to provide better video and sound quality and were probably edited to keep the flow. The videos were interesting and easy to watch. This “Badges” MOOC provides one live session each week. Then, they post the recordings for later viewing for those who are not available to watch it live. If you’ve ever attended a live webinar, then you pretty much know how this live session went. There were technical difficulties with video, the sound was inconsistent, presenter and her speech was off, slides didn’t show, and people kept typing distracting and rarely relevant comments while the speakers were talking. The live session had a posting of how many people were logged into the live session. The most I saw was 281 at 15 minutes into the hour-long session. There were only about 200 on it when it began. I have no way of knowing how many have watched the recorded session. At the second week’s live session, the most I saw logged in was 190 a little less than half way through it.

They do have the recorded sessions available via Blackboard as MP4’s a day or so after each live session. I watched one of the recorded sessions and it does not look like they have edited the live session at all before posting it. Too bad, it really needed editing.

MOOC Website

The Coursera Gamification website worked like a dream. I didn’t realize this until I had visited the Blackboard CourseSites website. It’s come to a screeching halt both times I’ve visited it in the last week. I’ve even tried different browsers (IE, Firefox, and Chrome) and get the same snail-paced response time. It is incredibly annoying.

CourseSite finally put up this on their website a graphic of a moon with “SHHH! CourseSites is temporarily unavailable…”

Now I’m three weeks into this MOOC on badges and it looks like Blackboard’s CourseSite website is finally moving a lot quicker. Wow, wonder how many participants they lost because of this?

Assignment Submission

Tried to submit assignment. Got error. Then it looked like it submitted a blank assignment and I couldn’t delete it nor add my assignment content. Ugh. I finally was able to submit my first assignment on the third try.


Before the first session, they recommended that we watch a YouTube video on Mozilla Open Badges. However, at the beginning of the first and second week’s live sessions they put the same video up and recommended (again) that students watch the video. Hmmmm. Annoying. I watched it before the first session like they had recommended. Looks like they got the hint (from the comments on screen) to put a different video up the third week.


All the technical stuff aside, I will say that the content presented about Mozilla Open Badges has been very interesting for this MOOC. Especially since I new very little about the subject prior to this MOOC. They have had several different subject matter experts presenting various topics about Open Badges which gives the learners distinct perspectives about the concept. That has been beneficial.

Will I continue?

Hmmmm. That is a good question. The jury is still out on this one. Who knows, I might be part of the 91.5%, the enrollees who don’t complete a MOOC.

I did it! I was part of the 8.4% – Final Thoughts on My First MOOC

Well, I did it! I successfully completed my first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). After six weeks of watching and listening to approximately 11 hours of video lectures, studying, organizing my notes, completing 4 quizzes, 3 written assignments, and a final exam, I passed my Gamification MOOC! I consider that quite an accomplishment for someone who hasn’t taken a college-type course in several years. This is my final blog entry on my first MOOC experience (Click here for part 1 of the article.)

The Stats

I don’t know why, but I find the statistics for MOOCs fascinating (it’s the “massive” part of the course I guess). According to our MOOC’s instructor, Dr. Kevin Werbach, as well as the results from the student survey, there were 66,438 people worldwide who enrolled in the Gamification MOOC. Of the total enrollment, 11 percent stayed in the course until completion with a total of 5,592 students completing the course with a passing grade (70% or better). Yes, I was part of the 8.4 percent who passed. (I’m clapping now!) That percentage seems so low when you first hear it. But think of if, over five and half thousand people successfully completed a course. Wow, that’s a lot more than can fit into most classrooms and still a lot more than take the average distance learning college course. Of the over 66,000 students who enrolled, only about half (52%) actually started the course.  Dr. Werbach guesses that the people who signed up for the free course decided it was too much work or didn’t have the time to complete it.

According to Dr. Werbach, the average age of the students for this MOOC was 33, most were employed full time (55%) and only 22 percent were full-time students. More men (66%) than women took this particular course, plus, over 56 percent said this was their first exposure to Gamification. I also found it surprising that 80 percent of the students already had a four-year degree and 44 percent had advanced degrees.

You can view Dr. Werbach’s video on the final statistics for this MOOC.

What It Was Like

What was so amazing to me was that I didn’t feel like I was in class with thousands and thousands of students.  How this MOOC was set up and delivered made me feel like I was in class with only 30 people. That’s quite a feat to pull off with a MOOC. The video “lectures” could have been majorly boring, but they weren’t. The professor’s charismatic voice and enthusiasm for the topic rang through the entire course, making the videos easy and interesting to watch. At first glance, the videos looked like a basic PowerPoint presentation but there was a small video on each “slide” of Dr. Werbach talking and explaining the course content. Graphics and statistics were shown and Dr. Werbach also used presentation tools to draw circles around important words, draw arrows and underlines for emphasis and draw additional graphics to further explain concepts.

We had four homework multiple-choice quizzes. These got a bit harder and were worth more as the course progressed. The final exam was a culmination of topics from the course and was also multiple choice. The written assignments were more of a challenge. Dr. Werbach gave us three different real-world scenarios and we had to write responses to his questions with the first assignment being a maximum of 300 words and the next two being a maximum of 500 and 1,500 words. Once the deadline for each written assignment had passed, you were assigned up to five assignments from other students that you were expected to peer-grade, using a Rubric. Although a few vocal students wrote protests to how they were peer-graded in the discussion groups, I thought the peer-grading experience was fair enough and very helpful. It allowed each of us to see how other students interpreted the assignments. Plus, there is no better solution to grading written assignments for that many people, especially when the course is free.

The Signature Track

I was enrolled in the regular (free) track for this course. However, there were about 2,000 people enrolled in what was called the “Signature Track.” The regular track offers a “Statement of Accomplishment” at the end of the course if you pass the MOOC. Coursera also offers a Signature Track, for $39.00 (U.S.) that allows learners to earn a “Verified Certificate” that“proves” you did your own work. This allows students to share their verified performance with work/school. The Signature Track requires students to log in using a web cam and a photo ID. It also uses biometrics using a student’s unique typing pattern to prove who they are for every time they log in for the course including taking each quiz, exam, and assignment.

Would I do it again?

Absolutely. This was a valuable experience and it gave me great hope as to what we could do in the world today with MOOCs and for educating the masses. Just think of the potential in taking some of the greatest instructors in the world today and instead of each of them teaching hundreds, opening up the opportunity to tens of thousands, or more, to learn directly from them!

Wow, learning for learning’s sake on a massive scale; what a concept! MOOCs seem to be a giant leap forward in education thanks to ingenuity and technology.

Initial Thoughts on My First MOOC

I wanted to learn more about MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), and I thought the best way to learn about them was to sign up and experience one; so I did. Then I had to choose one. I signed up for the Gamification MOOC on Coursera.com which was taught by Professor Kevin Werbach from the Wharton School of Pennsylvania. I wrote the following on April 10, 2013, about one week after my MOOC started.

When I signed up for this MOOC, I really didn’t know what to expect. What little I did know was that MOOCs (pronounced mooks, rhyming with spooks) offer a way to learn content, they’re usually free, most do not count as college credit, and that they’re talked about in almost every training and development discussion group and blog that I’ve read in the last year. MOOCs are relatively new, dating back to 2008, but have become much more widespread and talked about in the last year.

I quickly learned that for my particular MOOC, students are expected to spend four to eight hours a week watching content videos, doing homework, taking quizzes, writing assignments, and completing a final exam. Plus, the course would last six weeks. Geez, that sounds like a lot of work!

One thing I had read about MOOCs is that tens of thousands of people typically sign up for them and in a few cases, over 100,000 people sign up. However, only about 10percent complete a MOOC. Well, that sounded like a challenge to me, so I signed up for one with a goal to complete it. The MOOC topic didn’t matter much to me; I was more interested in the process of taking the MOOC. Why a MOOC on Gamification? Well, because I’m an instructional designer based in a marketing department. What I learn about gamification can not only spill over into my instructional design work; it can also give ideas on how gamification can help companies with their marketing strategies.

Over 62,000 people signed up for the Gamification MOOC  for April 2013. From stats collected via a student survey for our course, participants were from 149 countries with the highest percentage (28%) from the United States and 6 percent each from India, Brazil, and Spain.

Each week, two units of online video content sessions (about five to six videos per unit) are posted to watch. Each video session is from about three to 16 minutes in length with an average being 10 minutes. During the videos, Dr. Werbach not only explains content, but also uses presentation slides, graphics,  and drawing tools to further explain the concepts. In a few of the videos, it pauses to give you a brief assignment to write down in your notes, to participate in a discussion forum, to ask you a quick multiple-choice question, and then the video continues.  Dr. Werbach’s personality and presentation skills made what could have been very tedious videos very interesting.

Video examples

Video examples

More video examples

More video examples
Screen shots used with permission from Dr. Kevin Werbach

Coursera (www.coursera.org) serves as the Learning Management System for this and several other MOOCs. Other learning tools are used in the MOOC such as discussion forums, links to additional resources, a course wiki, and the ability to set up location “meetups” with other students of the course.

The “grading” of the course is based on a number of quizzes, written assignments, and a final exam. I had my first online quiz (multiple choice) last week. It was fairly easy if you took notes, but maybe it was designed to be easier so that participants would stay engaged in the course. We’ll see if it gets harder as the course progresses. This week we have Quiz #2 plus a written assignment that must be submitted at the end of the week. The written assignments are peer-graded. Each written assignment that is submitted is then assigned to five students to read and grade based on a rubric. Then, you get the average of the five grades by your reviewers. If you don’t participate in grading assignments from five other participants, you get a zero for your grade. This course was also given last fall, and they said that the peer grading worked well. It should be interesting to see how this works next week.

Takeaways from week one? Content can be learned via MOOCs, MOOCs take some effort and time commitment from participants, and MOOCs can be an effective way to learn. I’m looking forward to continuing this experience.

See part 2 of this article: Final Thoughts on My First MOOC!