#mLearncon recap: mLearning is growing up

I loved this mLearncon, I really did. But when I had to come up with a title for this recap it didn’t come to mind immediately. At first glance there was no leading trend or great news. I had to reread the posts about the previous mLearncon’s I attended before it came to me.Two years ago, there where some early adapters at mLearncon, most of them where publishing existing courses to tablets. The rest was thinking: ‘I need to do something with mobile, but what and why?’. Last year I expected a big step forward, but I was disappointed. There was no substantial progress that I could see. And that is the difference with this years conference. mLearning has matured. At first mobile was seen as a replacement for eLearning, and people where bringing their old courses to tablets. This year I saw many examples of mLearning that really take advantage of the unique features of the mobile devices and more and more on phones, not tablets. Smart phones are location and context aware and you have them always with you; this makes it ideal for performance support while you are on the go. Short nuggets of information pushed to mobile, especially short video’s. And people are beginning to use the other features of the devices such as camera’s. Design principles are more clear and more and more people have a proper strategy in place, ensuring the place of mobile learning in the total learning environment. Another sign of us catching up with the technique is that we are also looking forward. There already is a discussion on wearables (like Google Glass, smart watches and other sensors that we will carry in the near future). Last year we where still catching up with the possibilities of mobile learning. A great step forward.

About the conference
It was a great conference. I attended three keynotes and 10 sessions, and only one was disappointing. The rest varied from good to excellent. I learned a lot. The highlight of the conference was the keynote by Karen McGrane. Really great presentation and it put a lot of things for me in place. That is my biggest personal take away. I will use it in the product development of the new web edition of easygenerator and I believe I can solve that apocalypse. mLearncon is relative small, which makes it extra nice, and this years location was San Diego. Compared to Orlando (learning solutions) Las Vegas (DevLearn) a huge improvement. I loved it. Only the early bird sessions didn’t work well. Very low (to none) attendance and no moderation. For the rest a big compliment for David Kelly and his team.

And the score of mLearncon is …..
Before the conference I came up with the Spiro index. I’m looking for a way to compare conferences. The pre-conference score of mLearncon was 2.375 (the average number of sessions I selected per time slot). During the conference I rated all the sessions I attended, mLearncon scored 7.6 on average. The final score is found by multiplying these two and dividing them by two. mLearncon’s end score is a 9.0. This is the first time I did this so I have nothing to compare it with yet, but I will do this also for future conferences.

Blogging at mLearncom
Since mLearncon is about mobile, I decided to write all my post without using my laptop: Tablet and phone only. This worked out really well for me. I used my favorite app (mind node) for the mind maps, the conference app (really great) and the WordPress app (has room for improvement). I was able to post the blog most of the times before I left the session room. This worked for me better than writing all the posts on my laptop in the evening. I’m not sure how useful these posts and mind maps are for you. To be frank I do write them for myself. Making the mind maps is my way of organizing and processing all the information, it is my way of learning.  And my blog is developing itself as my extended memory, I check on old posts very often. Below you will find an overview of all the posts I did on mLearncon. WordPress doesn’t have hotspots so you have to click the links in the list below the image it to go to the posts.


The posts:



Mlearn conference preview: #MLearncon scores 2.375 on the ‘Spiro index’!


mLearn logo

An early post on MLearncon in San Diego, the eLearning Guild conference on Mobile learning. I know it is still a week before it starts but I will be leaving for the USA already this Thursday. First a few days New York and then San Diego and Mlearncon. I will probably not have any time to blog before the conference starts. I will be blogging from the conference on all the sessions I attend.

The fun for a conference always begins with viewing and selecting the sessions. While doing so, I took some notes, they should give you an idea about what the conference will be like.

How does MLearncon score on the Spiro Index
I’m becoming a real conference veteran. This will be my fourth major eLearning conference of 2014 (Learning Technology London, Learning Solutions Orlando, ASTD ICE Washington, and now Mlearncon in San Diego). Before I go to any conference I will download the app, go through all the sessions and add all interesting sessions to my Agenda. When I have double bookings on time slots I will make a second selection per time slot. Works like a charm. I also discovered that the number of double (or triple, or more) booked time slots is a good indication for the conference quality. Based on this I came up with the “Spiro index”; the average number of sessions that I have selected for a time slot. Two or higher is a good score. Mlearncon scores a 2.375 so that is a good sign! I will also rate all the sessions I attend and based on that I will create a final score. I will also do that for future conferences, it might be interesting to see if this helps to compare them.

MLearnCon Session topics and trends
I’m also always looking for trends at each conference. Step one in finding them is grouping all the sessions in categories. At MLearnCon there are approximately 100 sessions in total, here is my division in categories:

MLearncon sessions








What does stand out is that there are 33 tools and technique sessions, that is one-third. Add the 14 basics/getting started to that and a part of the strategy/framework sessions and it means that about 50% of the session aim at organizations that are starting up with mobile learning. That looks like a trend. The other thing that stands out is that there are 14 Case studies, that is more than last year. This shows that more and more companies have deployed MLearning.  Finally a newcomer for MLearnCon is the performance support (6 sessions), I can’t recall any from last year. This means that the ‘ePerformance’ trend has also reached to mobile space.  I will check  at the conference if these trends will be confirmed or that I detect other trends.

MLearnCon Keynotes

The guild conferences are known for their great keynote speakers, I loved last years Keynote at Mlearncon by Tamar Elkeles. I have to say that I’m not convinced yet by the descriptions of this year’s keynotes: Larry Irving, on the mobile revolution and the fact that this is the first technical revolution that is taking place globally. Karen McGrane about the fact that there are so many devices out there that your content should adapt to all these devices and that you have to develop a matching content strategy (cool title by the way “Content in a Zombie Apocalypse”). And a panel with: Imogen Casebourne, Clark Quinn and Chad Udell on the successes and failures of MLearning. Interesting but nothing mind-blowing or surprising, but who knows….

Follow MLearnCon
As said, I will be blogging on all sessions I attend and I will write a conference recap at the end. Summery reports will also be posted  in the easygenerator blog. But the best way to keep track is the back channel by David Kelly.

#Mlearncon keynote: Tamar Elkeles: a culture clash!

Tamar is CLO at Qualqomm. She started out with expressing her astonishment that we all flew to San Jose to attend a conference on mobile learning and she challenged the Guild to do it through mobile devices next year. That was a fair warning for what was to come.

After this intro she gave us the ‘normal’ analysis of the ‘ digital natives’ that will swarm our workplace very soon. Nothing new there. But after that she began telling what they are actually doing at Qualcomm.


Basically it is very simple, they are creating an ecosystem of apps, all kinds of them. Apps that will help you navigate an office, library apps, on-boarding apps, community apps, news apps, story apps, the complete list is in the mind map. No courses but just apps.

What they are doing is simply creating an environment that is the same as you use as a private person. An ecosystem like you have on the web or your mobile device that will bring you answers and solve problems. Makes sense and sounds simple, but it is a whole different approach to corporate learning. And at the same time very disruptive for an audience of instructional designers that create courses and for me as someone who’s company creates a course authoring tool.

It sounds simple and logical but it is a different way of thinking and a different culture and probably the better one. Makes me think; which makes this a great key-note. I spoke to her at the book signing session. She told me that there is still room for content as long as it is mobile and short. We just added HTML5 capabilities to easygenerator and will have the ability to publish courses through an app soon, but still I didn’t knew that the future was already here.


#MLearncon: session report: Deloitte case


This was a disappointing presentation. Started out with a ten minute commercial for Brainshark (the platform being used by Deloitte). It really was too much. But also the case presentation was disappointing. Basically what they do is push small PowerPoints through Brainshark to a website and aps and they have a digital solution for their paper readers through an app. More document management than mLearning for me.

#mLearncon session report: GE capital case

Interesting case, another one of having to train a lot (250.000) people who are not working in your organisation and where you have no control over. They went for small learning nuggets on an ‘ ordinary’ website optimized for tablets. Most striking for me, they dropped the mandatory registration and log in. Almost all of their content is freely accessible for everyone.

GE Capital

MLearncon preview: looking for trends

mlearnconNext week is mLearncon, I’m looking forward to it. I went through the description of all the sessions. I was looking for interesting sessions to attend, but also for some trends.

One thing is clear. There are more case studies than last year and the case studies are mostly about real implementations, not pilots. This is a signal of the progress mLearning is making. But the numbers are not overwhelming. This is also what I read and heard elsewhere. There is a group of early adopters implementing serious mLearning projects, but a lot of companies still have many doubts, especially on security. The majority still has to follow.

One expected trend is missing TinCan (or the Xperience API). It was big last year, version one is out and I was expecting a lot from that. I could find just one presentation on TinCan.

There are a lot of sessions on tools and techniques. It looks like the tools and the methods are ready to help you create mLearning. I will check that out for you.

It is as the Mlearncon website says: “Mobile learning isn’t a question of “if,” but “when.” You need to integrate mLearning into your learning and performance mix, or risk getting left behind by the competition.”

The ‘ when’ looks like the big question.  I will attend as many sessions next week as I can to see if I can spot more trends and find more info. And I will try to blog on them. More to follow….

Mobile learning conference #mlearncon: Wrap-up

Today was the last day of the conference. I have three more reports of sessions I attended and my personal wrap-up of the conference. I had some positive response on the mind maps, so I decided to stick with them.


As you can see Maslo is an open source authoring and publication platform for mLearning. It’s just version 1.0 and that shows. It is very very basic. What I like most about it that they deliver the code for an app that you can use to publish in an app store, really cool, although you still have to partially code it. What I don’t like is the fact that it is just for mobile. I do think mobile should be a part of your whole e-learning suite and you should not use a separate program for it. Interesting initiative though and one of the very few open source ones.


Again an open source tool, but on the other side of the range. Xpert is a very mature tool, developed over the past 5 years with substantial government funding. And that shows. They have really cool stuff in there. At the heart of the concept is reuse of content. All content is stored in forms (which I don’t really like) but the real problem is that you can reuse forms. They are smart so you can adapt them for a certain publication on a certain platform. But I see two problems with that. First it get’s very complicated to manage, but more importantly I believe you actually have to redesign for each publication and platform. Reuse of content is possible but not on the form level they have, it should be on the elements on the form (text, image, video). A simplified e-Learning course does not create a good PowerPoint or PDF for an instructor led training or a learning experience on a mobile device.

Closing session

The intended speaker was not available (due to a car accident), so this was an improvised panel session. There were no eye openers in this session, but the topics that where covered gave a nice recap of the conference. I tried to capture all questions and answers.

My conclusion of the conference
There were over 800 attendees at the conference. Based on conversations I had I estimate that maybe 1/3 is now deploying mLearning, often in pilots. The claim that mLearning is happening right now might be a bit strong, I think it is about to happen.

People are aware that mLearning is not about porting old courses to smartphones. So they are really looking for a strategy and an overall structure. It is clear that smartphones and tablets can be used to present information in context and the most valuable applications will be for job aid/task aid/location aid. There is a similarity with online help, that offers context too, but very few have been able to integrate or connect online help and eLearning.

There is a clear difference between mLearning on tablets (can also be courses) and smart phones. Adding these devices with their very specific strengths and weaknesses make the learning landscape even more complex.

Effective use of mobile technology for learning requires a design of a ‘Learning landscape’ and an integration of learning, development and user support. You should know what you want to do and then pick the proper solution (or combination of solutions). Lack of this oversight is holding people back, more than technical issues. This means that mLearning (especially for smart phones) will be mostly pilots or ‘isolated’ projects. It will take a while before it will become a standard element of the learning and support strategy.

That was it. I will try to have some fun in San Jose this afternoon and will be returning home tomorrow.

Click here for the post of day 1 and day 2 of mLearncon

Day 2 mobile learning conference #MLearncon: Trends day

Today was trends day. The first three sessions I attended were about trends in Mobile and the other two (user generated content and ten mobile start-ups to watch) are also trendy. The day started off with a general session.

The sessions of today contained a lot of information. I make my notes as a mind map so I decided to share them with you and add some comments to them. I you have any trouble reading them, just click on the to enlarge.

Three perspectives on making mobile e-Learning work.
The morning keynote with three presenters: Geoff Stadd, Clarck Quin and David Metcalf. I made my notes in a mind map and decided to share that with you and just comment on it.

Geoff Stadd
Geoff is head of innovation at Tribal an e-Learning company from the UK. Here is the mind map:

Clarck Quin
Geoff is Executive director of Quinnovations. Here is his mind map

David Metcalf
David is a researcher and director from the institute Simulation and training (METIL). Here is the mind map

I can see some red lines in these three presentations.

  1. Mobile learning is here to stay and is developing rapidly, at least the technology and platforms are.
  2. MLearning is not a replacement of e-learning. It is not about courses, but it is about specific types of learning and support: user support, job/task aid, communication and collaboration.
  3. MLearning is part of your total learning solution with specific strengths and weaknesses.

You have to take into account that these guys are talking about trends that are possible. A lot of the technology they are talking about is on its way or is brand new (like TinCan). It will take a while before they will find their way to the general public.

More important for now is the message that you need to design new forms of e-Learning that will suit the mobile devices and that add value to your learning solution. There is also a distinction between smartphones and Tablet. Due to their screen size smartphones are less suited for courses, tablets are more suited.

Top 5 technical trends in in mLearning
A panel discussion. They had prepared five topics from a developers perspective and five from a users perspective. Again two mind maps.

Developers perspective

The panel didn’t agree on social learning in a corporate environment. One stated that it was a disappointment; the other said that it was all over the place. I think that corporations failed to facilitate social learning and that they can’t measure it, so for them it isn’t there. Social learning is part of informal learning, you can’t control that. Although the corporations see it as a failure the learners will find each other through (open or closed) social networks.

Again the message was that you shouldn’t port your e-Learning courses to mobile (phones) but that you have to find new forms of (mobile) learning and facilities.

And there was a whole discussion on social. It was more about the fact that we expect these services for free, which causes a problem in the revenue model of these services. The panel was divided. Some expect those services (like twitter) to charge money in the future. Others didn’t, they believe that these services create value in an other way and that they can survive without charging money to end users.

From an users perspective

As you can see they only covered one of these topics; Video. They all agreed that video will be more and more important and that is is very valuable for instructions (how to). Since we have YouTube you don’t have to hire expensive actors or do a lot of editing. A video made with your mobile will do. There was a discussion on how to search on video’s. Right now you can only search on terms that videos are tagged with, they expect that new smarter forms of searching (like face recognitions, or pattern based searches) will be available over the next few years.

Trends in mobile Learning. Harvey Sing.

His trends are: HTML5 content and apps will be dominant. The LMS and content will be more and more in the form of apps. He foresees a future for mobile authoring of e-learning content. Simpler API’s (like TinCan) will come available and he expects platforms that will generate apps for us, so we can focus on the content and not on the technique. His presentation is available in MapDeck , search for Singh.

Welcome to user generated content
A presentation from Ben and Lauren Bonnet. He works as a consultant she works at a K12 school. They are passionate about user generated content and they are convinced that mobile devices are ideal for creating it. The first part of the presentation was about why they believe this. After that Lauren showed a number of apps they use at her school. Nice apps, but for most of them I don’t see an application in a corporate environment. Ben closed the session by telling how they (in his company) use the user generated content.

Ten mobile learning start-ups to watch
A  keynote from Jason Calacanis, he was involved in Netscape and is now (among other things) an angel investor. So he should know what is coming, because he puts his money on it. He started out with trends he sees:

Two new ones for me. I never heard of ‘flipping the classroom’ before. Its means that students make their homework in the class en study at home (supported by mobile devices and apps). He claims that it is a productivity booster. Interesting concept.

The other new item for me was the ‘Rockstar teacher’. He believes that the best teachers in their field will through the web teach millions. Student ratings will decide who is the best. He is convinced that this model will replace ‘Colleges’ as we know it.

After that he went into the start-ups:

There are some very interesting ones among them. Not all off them are learning initiatives, but the concept can be applied to learning. One thing that can influence our learning community on a short term is Apples Ibooks author. He believe that this will be another game changer.

That was it for today. I hope I didn’t bore you with this very long post and I hope that the mind maps work for you. Tomorrow the last half day of the conference and than back home.

Click here for the post of day 1 and day 3 of mLearncon

Mlearn conference Day 1

I will blog from the Mlearncon in San Jose over the next three days. I have really enjoyed my first day. I’m here as a participant, not as a vendor. At the  last 5 or 6 conferences I visited we had a booth at the expo and I had to do one or more presentations. It is a luxury to attend sessions and to network and nothing more.

You can follow the conference from a distance, the backchannel is a great source of information. Great work by David Kelly. It will give you a great overview of what is happening here.

Mobile Persuasion: Tiny Habits for Big Results. Key-note by BJ Fogg. 
The day started off with a key-note address from B.J. Fogg.  He is the director of the Behavior Design Lab from Stanford University. He believes that learning is about changing behavior and therefore it is about human psychology. Based on this believe he developed the ‘Fogg behavior grid’

The grid is made up by 5 types of behavior changes and based on time. This gives a grid with 15 different ways to change behavior. With Learning you want to establish a permanent change (a path) in behavior. But you should start small and work your way up.  You have to create a route from ‘dot’, via ‘span’ to ‘path’ and you should always start with a ‘hot trigger’ something that gets people’s attention.  From that you move in small steps move to your targeted change. For example: Trigger, ‘Green dot’, ‘Blue dot’, ‘Blue span’, ‘Blue path’. he used Groupon as an example. They start with a notification on your mobile that triggers you and then step-by-step you are seduced to go further. Before you know it, you will end up installing the mobile app, giving them your mobile number and allowing them to read out your location.

His believe that change comes in small steps led to an initiative called tiny change. People can subscribe to this site and express a change they want to implement. You have to fill in the following:” After I ‘existing habit’ I will ‘new habit’. For example ‘After I brush my teeth I will floss’. The existing habit becomes an anchor that will trigger you to perform the new habit. The website will give you feedback on how you are doing. For a lot of people this really works and he uses the data from this initiative to investigate this way of behavioral change deeper.

It was a great start of the conference. The grid offers you an interesting basis to design learning interventions. You can read more about his ideas at http://www.behaviorgrid.org .

An overview of mobile learning by Judy Brown
Judy started by pouring out a lot of figures to stress the fast development of the mobile platform. But at the same time (according to comscore)  learning or education is not in the top 20 mobile activities.

She also stresses that ‘going mobile’ doesn’t mean that you have to put all your current e-Learning courses on mobile. That might work on a tablet, but it will not on a smartphone. There are a whole bunch of activities you can support on a smartphone, but they are more user support like, than ‘classic’ learning.

Judy brings out a weekly newsletter (for the ADL) on mobile developments. It has an archive and you can subscribe to it. She ended her presentation with a whole bunch of initiatives to look at, I will list a few:

  • Snapguide. An Iphone app for step-by-step training
  • Coach eye. An app that you can use in sports coaching.
  • Google Glass project about a device that will project AR information on your glasses

Unfortunately her presentation is not available for download. If it does come available I will let you know.

New mobile experiences built by using the TinCan api.
I’m a fan of TinCan (the new SCORM standard that officially released today) but this wasn’t a successful presentation. The idea was to let vendors show pilot solutions they have built with TinCan to prove the added value of TinCan and show their commitment. Unfortunately the internet connection failed, but more important, the audience had little knowledge of TinCan and had tons of basic questions. These questions were addressed in a session later in the day, but I believe a reverse order of sessions would have been better.

The fact remains that TinCan allows you to track a learning experience outside an LMS. You can track results from an app, a presentation, an assessment that is embedded in a website to name a view of the examples of today. This also means that you can put up an HTML course on a webpage, visit it (with your mobile or other device) and still be able to track and trace it. TinCan will be a game changer for the e-Learning community the LMS boundaries (set by scorm) will disappear. It’s like moving from a single room apartment with one door and one window into a castle with countless doors and windows. If you want to know more, you can read my post I wrote on TinCan a while ago or go directly to the source: http://scorm.com/tincanoverview/

We’ve gone mobile. Thinking big but starting small. Dustin Arnold
Dustin described the process of a project they did with a client for (a first) mobile learning implementation. It covers a RFP process. They really struggled with all kind of very basic constraints (like tablets that didn’t have access to the Wi-Fi). They ended up with an android app that they had to install on each android device with a USB stick and they had to use that stick again to get the results from the devices. It did the trick and was succesful but for me this presentation was above all an illustration how far theory and practice can be apart. And that is something we as vendors need to be reminded of every now and then.

Deploying experiences on tablets using simulations, by Ken Spero
This was best presentation of the day. There was really a lot of information on why and how to create simulations. There is way too much information to put it in this blog. His presentation is available for download on the MapDeck site (search for Spero). You can download it and take a look for yourself. I will limit myself to a general overview of his presentation.

Ken states that learning in corporate environment is about increasing production. Therefore it is about change (again of behavior). People will have to do things different in order to be more effective. He says that experience is the best teacher and that we have to have to expand learning design from instructional design to narrative/experience design in order to give people actual learning experiences.

Based on research of Tallheimer and Medina he concludes that simulations are a great way to increase retention, especially when they are part of a spaced learning process. Which is by the way another point: Mobile learning and scenarios are just extra tools in our tool set. And we have to use them in combination with all the other options. They are not a solution for everything, but a part of the solution.

He has some great check list in his presentation, check out the ones on audience and learning objective characteristics (slide 21 and 22), his eight points on experience design are also valuable.

On top of this he had also the quote of the day: “Good judgment is the result of experience, experience is the result of bad judgment”.

Click here for the post ofday 2 and day 3 of mLearncon


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