Getting ready for #LSCON


Next week is the Learning Solution Conference in Orlando. I will go there for the fourth year in a row. It is probably my most favorite conference (at my least favorite place).

LSCON

This year it will be extra fun, easygenerator does’t have a booth there (we moved all our marketing online), so I will be able to attend a lot of sessions and blog on them. As part of my preparation I always go through the conference app, and I check out all the sessions and add all possibly interesting sessions to my schedule, I have selected over 30 sessions in the first run! A lot of them will be at the same time slots, so I will not attend all them all. But it is interesting to see what is there, I’m always looking for trends.

As keynotes we have:

  1. Soren Kaplan – Redefining innovation
  2. Douglas Merrill - Redefining Data
  3. Cathy Davidson - Redefining the Mind

Innovation, big data and our mind. Interesting topics and the LSCON has a great record of booking keynote speakers from outside the world of learning that give you new insights. I’m looking forward to all three. Redefining is also interesting. It looks like eLearning has come at a turning point. A lot of things are going on: mobile, TinCan, workplace learning, informal learning, agile development and more. And not at least the initiative about serious eLearning from a number of our thought leaders urging us to do a better job (and they are right, check it out).

If I categorize the sessions I have selected I come to this list:

Topic

# sessions

Agile development

5

Future of learning (including elearning manifesto)

5

Learner in Control

1

Tools development

5

TinCan

5

Connect to the real world (workplace)

6

Big data

1

Innovation

3

Interesting. Last year there were hardly any session on TinCan and Agile. Now I have 5 on topics. The topic with the most sessions is about connecting learning to the workplace (or the real world) also an interesting development. I will check them out for you and will report each day from the conference (Wednesday, Thursday and Friday) and will finish with a recap of the conference. I will post these reports both on easygenerator and on kasperspiro.com.

And a tip I have to give to you all, if you want to follow the conference, check the conference back channel moderated by David Kelly, who is also is the organizer of the conference. There are already interesting posts there! It is the best way to follow LSCON from a distance!

The LMS is from the Past – The web is the future


The LMS is in the Past – The Future is the Cloud

A Learning Management System (LMS) offers tons of functionality. At the same time it sets strict boundaries for learning, often requiring a substantial investment in time and money which is hard to maintain.

We are proud to offer a modern alternative to the LMS: a flexible best of breed, fully web-based (SaaS) solution created by a unique collaboration of three organizations:

  • Aim 4 You
  • Saltbox
  • Easygenerator

What do we expect from a LMS?

  1. to deliver content to the learner,
  2. to track and trace learner results and
  3. to create courses and learning content.

web lms alternative

Let’s start with authoring courses. Easygenerator offers a completely web-based authoring environment that can be used for free or with a subscription ($19 per month). It allows you to create instructionally sound eLearning courses based on learning objectives. The courses are responsive (they will run one very device) and can be published to the web or an LMS.

The second function is displaying and delivering content to the learner. Aim 4 You offers an unique global eLearning catalog that aggregates learning from all over the world. It allows developers, designers, IDs or anyone to showcase content or courses, invite people to follow it, provide more information and / or sell it directly. Aim 4 You takes care of the back office, so no implementation is required, and you get the benefits. And if you don’t want your learning displayed globally, with one simple click you can secure your content to only invitees. It’s as simple as that. Try our service free of charge.

Saltbox offers tracking and tracing Based on Tin Can (Xapi). It offers a hosted solution for the LRS (the Tin Can database) and it adds reporting to it.

So what did we do?

Each of these three companies is a best in class company in their own field; together we simply joined forces to create a complete and flexible solution: we connected our solutions for you.

How does it work?

It’s easy. When you create a course in easygenerator, include the Saltbox (Tin Can) settings and credentials. Then when the course is used, it will report automatically to the Saltbox LRS. Next, you can publish the course into the eLearning catalog from Aim 4 You, with a few simple clicks. Done – that’s all there is to do. No installation, no IT, no coding. This can all be set-up on your own in a few minutes.

Try it for free!

Go to easygenerator.com and sign up for easygenerator. From easygenerator you can activate accounts at both Aim 4 You and Saltbox. You can also signup directly with Saltbox or Aim4you.

I rather have no eLearning than Bad eLearning: The serious eLearning manifesto


Yesterday an important initiative was launched: The serious elearning manifesto. It was announced by some of the major thought leaders of our industry: Michael Allen, Clark Quinn, Julie Dirksen and Will Thalheimer and it is supported by many more. What they say is that we create way to much bad eLearning and that we should do a much better job on it. They want us to move from the current eLearning practice into serious eLearning. The table below (part of the manifesto) shows the differences:

manifesto1

 

When you read this you can do nothing else but agree. It is true that we create bad eLearning and the direction they point us to is the right one. The manifesto contains 23 principles. You can read them here. You can also see a recording of the launching session from yesterday.

If you want you can sign the manifesto, as I did. You will get a cool badge. But more important, we should live up to this!

150x150xSerious-eLearning-Signatory-line5-150x150.png.pagespeed.ic.DXeP5kemTeFor everybody who is attending the learning solution conference in Orlando next week, there will be two sessions on the manifesto. They will be presenting on the #elearningmanifesto at Learning Solutions #LSCon session 105 (and a morning buzz). I will be there as well.

 

Are you ready to deliver personalized learning?


Ruth Kustoff and I wrote an article on the things you have to do as an learning organization to be able to deliver personalized information. It has been published by the Learning solution magazine as a featured article. I really like the summary Bill Brandon (Editor learning solutions magazine) put above the article:

“Learning has become mobile and on demand. Learning knows no place or boundary; it can be on the go, in the office, at home, or anywhere. Learners can now ‘pull’ the information they need, when they need it, shifting control from training departments to the learner.”

Click the link or the image to read the whole article.

lsm article

 

 

 

 

5 eLearning trends that will lead to the end of the LMS


I wrote a post that was published at the elearningindustry.com about 5 trends that in my opinion will lead to the downfall of the LMS as we know it.The trends I see are:

  1. The learner takes control
  2. Personalized (adaptive) learning
  3. Curation
  4. Anywhere, Anytime and any device
  5. Specialized learning material

My conclusion is that they will impact the learning organization in a huge way, but that the impact on Learning Management Systems will be even bigger. If you want to read the whole post, just click on the image below.

trends

Visiting Ukraine: Don’t steal their future!


This post is not about the normal topic of this blog (e-Learning) but about Ukraine and the recent protests. The development team of easygenerator is in Zhytomyr (Zhitomir), a city located 140 kilometers west of Kiev in Ukraine. As their manager I visit the team a few times per year and last week I was there as well. During my visit the protest against the current administration escalated. In the first days of my visit it was quiet in Zhytomyr (no riots) although the topic was clearly on top of everybody’s mind. On Thursday people tried to storm the City Hall and after that groups of demonstrators roamed the city. I met a few groups when I was walking to my hotel, some of the groups were just demonstrating; singing and shouting slogans and waving Ukrainian flags, others were trying to enter government buildings. I wasn’t threatened or afraid in any way, but the anger of the demonstrators was impressive. And I believe they have all the reasons to be angry. I talked about it a lot last week with a variety of people and I have done some reading as well. I returned to the Netherlands last Friday, but it is still on top of my mind as well; therefore I decided to write this post.

The question is what the future for Ukraine will hold. Looking at the past doesn’t give much hope. Ukraine was under foreign rule almost the whole time over the last 500 years. Mainly by Russia (including the Soviet Union), but also Poland and Hungary ruled it. As far as I know the current state of independence (since 1991) is by far the longest independence for the past 500 years or so.

I have been to Ukraine eight times in the last three years and I learned a lot about the country and its inhabitants. My main impression was that it is a country inventing itself, moving away from Soviet rule, into a more democratic and free direction. I was sort of hopeful in spite of the problems they have.

The main problem in Ukraine is corruption. It really is a disease. Everything is corrupt. It is cheaper to buy your driver’s license than to get one the legal way. The police is corrupt (as I found out through personal experience), and most of the politicians are corrupt. If you are elected, you get a free ticket to personal enrichment (with your friends and business partners). I’m afraid that the current government is not worse or better than the previous one in this respect.

The difference between those who have and those who have not is really huge. A few very, very rich and a lot of very poor people. Young people are struggling to build an existence as a starting middle class. But it is hard to get a house of your own in Ukraine and it is hard build a future for yourself and your family. As a result a lot of young talented people are leaving Ukraine. On top of this Ukraine is in a demographic crisis. They have low birth rates and the country has a high mortality rate. Due to pollution, poor diet, wide-spread smoking and alcohol (Vodka!). Life expectancy is falling and the population decreases by 150.000 people each year.

But why are things escalating at this moment?

I picked up a few things, here are my insights:

There will be new elections in 2015. The chances of the current administration to be re-elected are very slim. The president doesn’t want to give up power, because he hopes to get an extra term to become even richer. As I stated earlier I’m not sure that it will make a difference in this regard if the opposition would be in charge, but you can at least have hope in that direction.

The country is divided about the direction they need to take. Do they move back in the direction of Russia or will they move in the direction of the European Union. The president decided to break of negotiations with the EU and sign far stretching contracts and treaties with the Russians. This was the reason for the start of the protests. The people are still remembering the oppressive regime during the Soviet period and they don’t want to go back. But for the ruling people it would be hard to continue their self-enriching schemes when European laws would be implemented, so they prefer Russia over the EU. A lot of poor and uneducated people will also have some sympathy for Russia. Despite the lack of freedom during Soviet rule, a lot of things (like having a job and income) were better in the these days for them. And there still is a big dependency from economic perspective with Russia. Not only import of energy but also export of a lot of Ukrainian products and raw materials are going to Russia. Due to the old factories these products would have a hard time competing with Western products, both in quality and in price. Moving towards the EU jeopardizes these important contracts. The people who want to move towards the EU are looking towards the future, demanding freedom and having better opportunities to build their lives and improving the quality of their lives. For now the Russian direction looks to be on top. And there is also a fear that Russia would not allow Ukraine to move closer to the EU and that it might intervene if they would. This has to do with economics, but also with the geographical position of Ukraine between the EU and Russia.

Ukraine is the buffer (with Belarus) between the EU and Russia.

Last year Ukraine passed a horrible law (like they did in Russia) that discriminates gay people in a scandalous way. Now they have adopted laws that limit the freedom of demonstration in a way that conflicts even with the constitutional laws of Ukraine. These laws were the reason the conflict escalated over the last week.

What really changed in the past two months is hope. There was hope that they were moving slowly but gradually in the direction of the EU, including better chances and more personal freedom. That hope is slipping away, for now its place has been taken by uncertainty. But people know what kind of decisive time they are living in, if they allow the current rulers to turn back the clock, it will take a long time to revert that direction again. This explains the anger and persistence of the demonstrators. They are not only demonstrating and fighting for their country, but also for their future and the future of their kids.

Ukraine had already enough problems without the escalation it is going through now. The only positive thing I can see in the current situation is that the country really needs a sort of revolution to make the changes they need. I’m not only referring to a change of those who rule, but also about the wide-spread corruption, lack of good health care and more. I have to say that I’m not positive about the chance of a good outcome at this moment, but I admire those who are standing up and doing all they can to make that change happen. For what it is worth, this blog post is for them.

Day one: My agile eLearning development presentation from #DevLearn


Day one of DevLearn was not an ordinary day. We launched our new free eLearning software and our booth had so many visitors that I haven’t been able to attend a single session at the conference, no sessions reports from me this time. I even missed both keynotes. So for day one I will limit myself to my presentation on agile eLearning development.

For us at easygenerator the day was mostly about our new free web edition. We launched it successfully, you can check this new eLearning software out by yourself. The Learning solution magazine published an article on our new edition. A very positive piece by Jennifer Neibert.

As promised to the people present at my presentation here is the presentation itself.

In the prezi you can’t click the links to the references, so here they are:

For those who are interested, here are the links to the related blogs I posted earlier:

Easygenerator to launch new free web based eLearning authoring software at #DevLearn


This Wednesday (October 23rd) we will launch a completely new web-based free eLearning authoring tool. This launch will be at the DevLearn conference in Las Vegas.

This web edition will be the start of a whole new generation of solutions by easygenerator. We will take all the experience we have built in the past 15 years on eLearning authoring and put it in a brand new product. You can register and start working with this new eLearning software by clicking the link (starting on Wednesday 23rd).

I did show the tool in a preview to Joe Ganci, here is his feed back:

“I am excited to see what easygenerator has created. Here’s a tool that encourages proper eLearning design and development by tying together the important elements of learning: set up your objectives, deliver your learning in small nuggets, and test learners. The interface is inviting and simple and best of all, easygenerator is free! It takes into account modern needs, such as HTML5 and Tin Can tracking, and does a lot of the work for you. While it doesn’t replace more powerful tools at the moment, I welcome easygenerator’s new tool as a wonderful way of ensuring better learning occurs.”

In this post I will explain what the product will be about based on the requirements we have set.

2 Learning experience editor

Must run on every device

The world has changed over the past few years. People expect an authoring tool to work not only on a PC, but also on tablets and smartphones. The published content must run on every possible device with any operating system. Ans it does. The new web edition of easygenerator doesn’t require installation of any kind, it runs in any browser. Publications can be used on every device as well and the content will be completely responsive (adapting itself automatically to screen sizes and resolutions).

Must be an easygenerator publication

Our mission is to help you to create better eLearning. One of the things that set’s easygenerator apart from all the competition is that we placed Learning Objectives in the heart of the design process. We did that in our windows edition and the web edition is completely build around that approach. You have to create learning objectives. After that you create questions to assess the learner on those objectives and finally you add content to the question to help the learner answer it. That is it.

Must be easy to use (no training required)

We want users to use easygenerator’s web edition without ant training what so ever. Therefore we gave a lot of attention to the user interface. We hope that that shows.

TinCan enabled HTML publication

Since we developed this application for the future we choose for a TinCan enabled HTML publication. This first edition has no SCORM, but we will ad that later. The idea is that this web edition will grow over the next 12 to 18 months into a solution that can replace our current windows edition. We have the next major release with new functionality planned for the end of the year. We will keep you posted through this blog and through our easygenerator website

Agile eLearning development (6): Recap


Over the past weeks I have written a series of blog post on agile eLearning development. There is much more to tell, but I decided that it is enough for now. Here is a recap of the posts.

Wordle

Leaving ADDIE for SAM
The book ‘Leaving Addie’ for Sam by Michael Allen and Richard Sites inspired me to write these series. A must read for anyone involved in eLearning development.

Business goals and road maps
Part of the growing up from eLearning is that it becomes part of the business and therefore must contribute to the business goals. In this post I describe the method of Impact mapping that will help you do that for software development, there is a clear link with the action mapping approach for elearning by Cathy More.

Culture
A successful implementation of an agile method requires a certain culture. It’s about teams and about responsibilities on the right place (less hierarchical). But most of all it is a different attitude of doing instead of ‘documenting’.

Demo’s, user stories and backlog
This post describes some techniques from an agile method that can be applied to eLearning one-on-one. For me the most important one are the demo’s. The development team showing results every week or two weeks. If you would just implements this it would be a major change.

Planning and execution
This post describes the agile way of planning and estimation through story points and the concept of done. I know that story points have some disadvantages as does the ‘traditional’ way of planning. I like it and if you would try it out it will definitely give you some new insights in your planning and development process.

Chatty Kidz
A contribution by Ken Taggert who is developing an educational app for kids. He describes his agile method, which contains a lot of interesting parts, also from the perspective of eLearning development.

That sort of wraps it up. I’m looking forward to the new book of Michael Allen, in which he will describe a lot of agile eLearning techniques. I will buy it and review it for you.

Agile eLearning development (5): Chatty Kidz


One of the people who responded to my posts on agile development is Ken Taggert, He is developing an Ipad app (Chatty Kidz) which combines video conferencing with educational activities for kids. He just launched a kickstarter project to find funding for the further development of the app. Nice project I can recommend it to you. He shared his experiences on agile development with me and I thought that that would add to my story, so here it is.

Reduces the amount of up front documentation (i.e. throw out the massive specification documents that nobody read anyway)
When starting a new project using a waterfall methodology you need to write your detailed specifications; a costly, laborious and boring job. The customer then reads through the details and signs off on the specification, approving the next step so development can begin. Yet in reality things do not really work to the plan! The customer does not read ALL the specification, they may read the bit they care about but the rest they skip through and approve the document. Problems crop up later in the project when a particular feature is tested and the client says ‘that’s not what I want’ only to discover it was detailed in the specification. In other scenarios the specification was maybe wrong or not detailed enough so the customer did not interpret the resulting feature exactly the same as the development team did; the difference is only identified when testing begins. To top all this off things change as progress is made in any project! Someone will have a better idea, a problem changes things downstream, etc, etc; especially in the larger projects.

Here at Chatty Kidz we use the Agile methodology where you can avoid the need to write huge, detailed specification documents – a massive plus for any Business Analyst!  But it is not as simple as doing nothing either, you have to still communicate the business needs for the software solution to be developed (developers cannot read minds – yet ..).

userstories

user stories are grouped into sprints as we plan to develop them.

We start with the high level wish list, simple statements such as ‘a new user can register on the website’; in Agile this is known as an EPIC. We prioritise all EPICS, i.e. what’s most important goes to the top of the list.

We pick the top EPIC and list all the relevant USER STORIES, these are still short and punchy but drill into the detail such as ‘a new user can click the REGISTER button on the homepage’ & ‘the new users email address must be validated before being accepted’. Each user story should not be more than 2 or 3 days development effort for a single developer allowing you to easily estimate the effort required using STORY POINTS (can drill into this but maybe link to these points online – there is loads of info).

We prioritise the User Stories and start development, we aim to deliver ‘something’ to the customer/user at the end of every sprint. So they can test & provide the valuable feedback, we listen and use this information for the next sprint. So we can change if need be when something more important comes to our attention.

Overtime we incrementally improve what we have built so far, adding new features & functions to the Chatty Kidz platform with each successive sprint. We save heaps of money by developing cheap working prototypes & getting them into the hands of real users. We listen to their feedback & begin work on the next release, deploy another incremental improvement at the end of the next sprint – rinse & repeat. NOTE: we use Jira to manage this process 

Manage your budget better (i.e you can be more flexible as the project progresses, the vast majority development projects change tact anyway as they progress which caused havoc with budget estimates fixed in stone before the project even started)

In a waterfall project you use the detailed specification to estimate the project costs, these are approved and the project manager must manage those developments within the approved budgets – things go wrong eventually as many details were estimated incorrectly 10 months earlier.

At Chatty Kidz we still estimate the allocated budget to be spent on specific features, but we know it is not detailed nor accurate.  Its simply how much we are prepared to spend at that point in time. As we have documented lots of user stories we keep prioritising them and developing them until we have exhausted the approved budget. Any user stories which are still left in the list remain there until some future point in time when we do have more budget.  For example the next module may have been a lot easier that we expected so we can include some user stories missed from the previous sprint.

Yet the opposite is also true & often difficult for the project customer to grasp, if something was more complex than expected & consumed more money or new high priority user stories have been added during the course of development.   The budget does not magically increase, the team must stop when the budget is consumed.   They can apply for more budget to finish off some important items, but they do not blindly continue spending money and blow the project budgets because the project controls are so much better and managed at a useful granular level.

Produce a better product (deliver something into the hands of real users earlier, get them involved in the testing process earlier and fix them long before the product launches)

In  a waterfall project the project first designs something on paper, then builds it over the life of the project. Towards the end the users get their hands on the resulting product when the testing phase begins; this is often where it hits the fan because it is only now the user/customer can see things look different to what they expected from endless 100 page specification documents and endless boring design meetings held at the start of the project. They have not been involved for the last 10 months as the build phase was completed by the project team!!

intheappstore

FIG: we deploy the app into the app store sooner than later, to get real user feedback from a real product sooner

At Chatty Kidz we use Agile and involve the users/customer from start to finish of the project life-cycle. We do not overload the user at the start of the project with loads of design meetings and thick specification documents, instead they attend meetings every 2 weeks (the length of our sprint) and they are asked to focus on a specific feature. It is a lot more manageable for the user because we are only asking for a limited amount of their time!  We do not ask them to review massive detailed specification documents because we created the user stories together. There is less worry & stress about budgets because each 2 week sprint has a very clear budget estimate that’s not that large compared to the entire project – its a manageable chunk for everyone.

We involve the users/customer throughout the entire life of the project as they have to test the real software resulting from each 2 week sprint, again it is not an onerous task.  Because there is not a massive amount to test, we are productive in each 2 week sprint but it is only going to take a user a few hours to test it & provide their feedback – easy.

There are no surprises waiting for anyone as they are involved in the incremental improvements made to the software sprint by sprint

NOTE: we use testflightapp to distribute the ALPHA versions of the app to the test teams, allowing us to get feedback even earlier.

This post is part of a series on agile eLearning development:

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