New Learning metaphors: presentation on learning maps at #LSCON12

Next week is the Learning Solution conference organized by the E-learning guild in Orlando. I will present concurrent session 311, Wednesday at 14.30 in the International Center Room. I will present my ideas about new learning metaphors and will show some examples of possible solutions. A great opportunity to get feed back on this ideas and I hope to get some new ideas from the audience too. The organization told me they are expecting 140 people to attend this session, which would be really great, I’m looking forward to it.

I will do two other presentations as well. On Wednesday at 4 and Thursday at 3 I will present on the ‘Learning Technology Showcase’ stage. We will show how easygenerator enables the ‘Next generation of e-Learning’. Easygenerator is also present with a booth (#409) at the Expo. I hope to meet a lot of you in Orlando. For those who will not attend the conference I include my presentation and I will report through this blog about the conference and my findings on Learning metaphors.

Previous posts on Learning metaphors:

How to keep formal e-Learning relevant

We all know that e-learning is changing, we all know that our learners have changed. The rise of the internet, social media and mobile devices have changed our world. It turned out that it is much easier for a learner to adapt to these changes than for a e-Learning manager or developer. Over the past 16 months I have written all kind of post researching this change. I was recently asked to present on this subject in a webinar. In my preparation I went through all the posts and was for the first time able to merge them in a coherent way. I wanted to share this presentation with you.

Additional information on a lot of the subjects that are in the presentation I wrote about earlier. These post contain a lot of links to other resources on the internet on these subjects:

•Output management
•Agile development for Software, and for e-Learning
•Learning metaphors, learning maps
•Outcome learning (series of posts)

You can attend the webinar if you like (Wednesday February 15th 2012 10.00 am and 2.00 pm EST). See for details the site of Interactive Advantage.

A new metaphor for e-Learning: learning maps

Yesterday I visited the Fraunhofer institute in Karlsruhe, Germany. They have been investigating a learning map metaphor for the past few years. Interesting visit. So what did I learn from it?

The Fraunhofer institute is an impressive organization 18.000 employees working in applied science. So they approached this research in a scientific way. They use web didactics as a didactical framework and build a very complete solution around that. If we take a closer look at their solutions there are some things that I like, but also some things that need improvement.

Image of the prototype from the Fraunhofer solutions for learning maps

Image of the prototype from the Fraunhofer solutions for learning maps

If you look at the image you will see a course that has several learning paths. Based upon the results they use a branching mechanism to steer you in a certain direction and they will choose the proper path for you. This I don’t like. The purpose of a map is to give insight to the learner in the content and the possible learning paths. There is no point in presenting alternative paths if you can’t take them. What I do like is the fact that you can see the route you have already taken (dark on the image) and that they give feedback on the branching. At the first intersection you can see in the map that you will navigate to the top of the map if you score over 50% and that you will take the bottom route if you score lower. The biggest problem is the amount of information. You can zoom in and out of a map. On a high level it is OK, it shows the routes and it presents the learning content as a smaller or larger town. When you zoom in (like in the picture above), there is way to much information. Each symbol is a combination of media type, content type and level. This combination makes it very too complex. As always the hardest part is leaving things out in order to make it simple and intuitive. An other problem is the representation of learning objectives. They are presented on the top of the screen in a sequence. The selected learning objective is indicated with a red square. This way you don’t have an overview of all objectives and you can’t see the relations between the objectives.

It is easy to have comments on the work of somebody else, but it is way harder to come up with suggestions that make it better. I tried to come up with them in the form of requirements for a new metaphor. Here they are:

  • The new metaphor should give the learner an overview of all learning objectives and their inter relations in one simple overview.
  • Information must be shown to suggest to best learning path, but the learner should be able to decide which path to take.
  • The metaphor should show the followed learning path.
  • Information should be dosed carefully, so we don’t want to present all information at once. You should be able to zoom in to one specific area only.
  • We need to have simplified icons to inform the learner about the content that is available.
  • Creating a learning presentation based on a metaphor should be as easy as building a course with a book metaphor, It should be automatically generated, no scripting required.

I do believe that maps are a potential candidate for a new metaphor, the challenge will be to make it simple, intuitive on the one hand but rich on the other. The first post on a new learning metaphor was very well read (it is already my best read post ever) and I got a lot of comments. Thanks for that, I got great input that really helps me. Apparently this subject is of interest to many people and I will definitely follow-up with more posts.

See also:

A new methaphor for e-Learning

I’m convinced that we have to find a new metaphor for e-Learning in order to bring e-Learning to the next level. The old book-metaphor with chapters and pages is well suited for linear courses, but it doesn’t work for more flexible individual approaches of e-Learning. I made it my and easygenerators goal for this year to find and implement a new metaphor in such a way that it is as easy to use as the book metaphor, while offering the learner much more flexibility in finding her way through the course.

At the moment I’m looking at a lot of different examples in order to learn from them. In this post I will share some of them with you.

I want to start outside the world of e-Learning with Flipboard, one of the most valuable apps for the Ipad. It uses the metaphor of a newspaper to present blogs, Twitter Facebook and a lot of other stuff.

The 'paper' metaphor of Flipboard

The 'paper' metaphor of Flipboard

It works brilliant, especially for blogs and tweets. The beginning of a post or a tweet is presented, so you can quickly scan them. If something attracts your attention you can open the complete post with one touch. This way of presenting this information really adds value. It enables you to scan all this post in a faster and more attractive way.

Another cool application of a metaphor is the music app Planetary. It uses the Galaxy as a metaphor to present your music library. Your artist are start, their albums are planets, and the tracks are presented as moons. A great way to present this mass of information to you in a whole new way.

The music aPP GALAXYAs you can see I’m a David Bowie fan, this images zooms in on the ‘star’ David Bowie.

E-learning metaphors
Looking at e-Learning courses I found a lot of metaphors. They either offer the learner a certain context or they will represent the content in a graphical way.

Context: Floorplan

Using a ground plan to give context to the learner.This example is created by one of easygenerators Dutch partners (Atrivision). It’s a medical course where nurses have to learn how to solve certain cases. The floor-plan gives them context, but also makes it possible to make a selection for the place where you want to perform your next action. By selecting a certain room, you also limit the possible options that you have.

Content: Tube map
Another example I liked a lot was the tube map. It is used to represent the content of a course.

The subjects are represented by the lines, stations are certain topics. I like the stations that are connected to more than one line, you can switch from subject there, because they are connected. This example is made by an other Dutch partner (ISM Learning). Both of these examples are custom made for a specific course. This is a lot of work when you create them, but even more work to maintain them. This gives me two  requirements for the new metaphor. First it must be as generic as the book metaphor. The second one is that it must be easy to create and maintain.

Learning maps
One of the metaphors I’m very interested in are the ‘learning maps’; a geographical map as a representation of e-Learning content. If you combine such a map with a navigation tool, you would get a very rich environment to present learning content, giving overview and control to the learner and providing information on possible learning routes. The ‘Fraunhofer Institute’ in Karlsruhe has done extensive research at this metaphor. I will visit them in February. I hope to learn from them and I hope that we can work together at the new metaphor.

I will present on learning metaphors and learning maps at the ‘Learning solutions’ conference in Orlando in a concurrent session (#311, Wednesday, March 21, 2:30 – 3:30). I hope to share my ideas in more detail and get feedback on them and hopefully will receive some suggestions on the direction to take. In the meantime I will keep my eyes open for other possibilities. If you have examples or ideas you want to share with me, that would be great. You can contact me through this blog or at I will keep you updated on my findings about metaphors in future posts.

See also:

Online Educa Berlin 2011 recap

Last week I visited the Online Educa in Berlin. I’m sorry to say that I’m not a big fan. When you compare it to conferences like Learning Solutions and DevLearn it really comes out bad. In Berlin I met with Christopher Benz (he is in charge of online events of the ELearning guild) and we spoke about the differences of an eLearning guild conference (like Learning Solutions and DevLearn) and the online Educa. We decided that the biggest difference is that the guild is a community of learning professionals. People have virtual contact during all the time. Thus the conferences change into a meeting place of friends and colleagues, giving it a very different atmosphere. The other big difference are the key notes and sessions. All three key notes at the Learning Solution conference gave me a new insight or at least a new perspective; food for thought. The keynotes in Berlin didn’t have that at all; I heard nothing new or exiting.

I actually deleted my first draft of this post because it was just a boring complaint about lousy keynote speakers and bad sessions. I decided to write a new blog focusing on the positive sites. So here we go:

I wrote last week on the learning scenario session I attended, that was great. During the conference they worked on the scenarios and brought them together into quadrant with four scenarios. You can read about it at the learning scenarios website. There is food for thought there and you can take part in the further development of the scenarios, so please join.

Example of a learning map, taken from IADIS proceedings from presentation by Schock, Bargel, Roller and Rauner.

The most exiting thing for me was the discovery of ‘learning maps’. I’m looking for a new metaphor for e-Learning, one that can replace the old book metaphor. We were thinking of mind maps but some people from the University of Karlsruhe and The Fraunhofer institute came up with ‘learning maps’. They use maps with roads, houses, villages, hills and more to represent e-Learning content, they have developed a didactical framework to support this. I love this idea it gives a whole new perspective on learning content using well-known paradigms from geographical maps. The only thing I don’t like about this idea is that I haven’t thought of it myself. And I have a history in mapping and routing services, I was the CEO of Locatienet/Routenet a Dutch web service like Google earth (only earlier and on a smaller scale). This idea really got me exited, we will explore this further, but I can envision what this can do for e-Learning.

I’m afraid that the other positive elements of the week are limited to the people I spoke and the great city of Berlin. The interesting discussions and some really great dinners made this week worthwhile. It is always great to walk underneath the Brandenburger Tor and see the great avenue ‘Unter den Linden’. Conclusion: mediocre conference, great city.

I’m already of to a new adventure. I’m now in the Ukraine with our development team, working on next years road map for easygenerator. I’m really looking forward to this week.


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