Thursday, 28 June 2012

eManagement and Blended Management

Irony seems to be a common thread in my recent blogs. Whilst blogging on the over use of video I posted a number of links to YouTube.. To talk about the over use of push learning I pushed out another blog.. but today as I'm in another airport lounge it strikes me as ironic that for someone who is so devoted to the use of cloud based and open source technologies to deliver learning remotely, I do seem to spend a lot of time traveling. Traveling to deliver face to face training on using a remote learning system or meeting with teams about how this stuff will all work without people having to be in the same geographical location. The point is there often seems to be a disconnect of people's expectations about their systems and what they expect from learners and what they are prepared to do themselves.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting here that all face to face meetings are no longer required, that would be as ridiculous as making a decision that all face to face training is no longer required, no this is the same sort of decision that we make for blending our learning. Welcome to the era of eManagement and Blended Management and its use around elearning.
Now the observant amongst you will already note that I work for Kineo Pacific in New Zealand (mostly) and Australia (see above). I'm physically based in Albany on the North Shore of Auckland. When I was asked about this role and interviewed it was done remotely via a Skype interview as the rest of the organisation was based in Wellington. Some of you may have already experienced this and if not you may want to add it to your tools, some of you use it as an everyday tool and some probably believe it can't be effective for something like an interview (but if you're still reading there's hope). During the interview the CEO was asking me questions about why they should employ someone from a different geographical location to manage stuff around their learning technologies. My answer at the time was around walking the walk, how we expect clients to work in the cloud, how we share and work with clients remotely on learning systems that do the same and yet we hang on to the old ideals of everyone working in the same office under close supervision (I may never wear a tie again!). Not only do I stand by that (hopefully they do too) but it goes further, the modern world has never been smaller, this is all to do with the way we communicate; if we insist on management being done the way it was when the world was bigger then expect it to be a bigger task that costs more and is probably less effective.

Just like elearning eManagement is not primarily about financial rewards (but yes, I'm aware most of you still have to sell it that way), but about using the right tools to achieve the tasks.. It's more about effectiveness than efficiency believe it or not. If you're trying to set up a meeting between more than two or three people it can seem to take for ever to get a date and time agreed even in the same geographical location. What usually happens is people get excluded or the meeting gets set back to a mutually acceptable date. This has two immediate effects; firstly people miss out entirely (minutes eventually follow for what they're worth) and secondly the time frames are not dictated by needs but by simple logistics, in essence you lose the ability to control the pace of your project or you build project with lengthy gaps in for just this reason. For me this is the breeding ground for inefficiency and disengagement. The great thing about cloud based meeting tools and spaces is the ability to not only host them remotely but that no-one need miss out; there are several tools with the options to record the meeting or webinar and record questions and shared white spaces.

For training I also find that we get far more focused in a webinar than in a 4-6 hour training day (you can do 8 if you want..). Human attention span is well documented as being short (would you read this blog if it were 10 pages long?) and a 60-90 minute web training session can work really well to cover a few topics. Like your face to face sessions and your elearning it doesn't have to be all push either, you can use the questions and polls effectively and even get participants doing things and use linkages between the sessions (yay, homework again!).

Again, I don't want to replace the face to face, there are times we need to meet people and it's great to meet new people and understand a bit more about them, it's just not necessary all the time. I'm now on the plane to Wellington to run a training session, Monday I'm running a scoping exercise in Brisbane and the following week presenting at a conference back in Wellington and then for another large meeting. Some of that is necessary and some of it truly isn't, but I'm customer focused and if the client really wants to do everything this way, then I usually will. My point here is that most of the time, this is because they don't really think about alternatives and reach for old solutions to modern problems. Think about the reasons why we use elearning; not just the efficiency, but things like consistency, ease of access to information, engagement, immersion and interaction, then apply these ideals to your management and see whether actually that meeting could be done virtually or whether or not it's necessary at all. I love it when clients embrace the cloud tools, we share things in the virtual space (like editing a document or graphic between us without posting or even emailing it) or jumping quickly on to the same system to demonstrate where things can be improved; again it's about the best way of working.

I'll leave you with this final thought as my plane journey is near the end, eManagement and elearning are kindred spirits and all about the way we live and work today. You may not have to adopt either right now, but at some point you will and it will likely be for wrong reason then (money). If you're an early adopter here you have a much greater chance to shape the future and learn (yay!) along the way. As always balance is the key; please don't ignore the person next to you the rest of the day and communicate only by IM, and no Milo isn't buying in to this stuff either!

As always everything here is entirely my opinion and I reserve the right to be way off base as required. I'd love to hear from you either by direct response to this blog, email, LinkedIn or Twitter.. Even face to face of course!

Location:Andrew Mckee Ave,Auckland,New Zealand

Friday, 22 June 2012

Push Me Pull You

So this comes up all the time in the elearning world.  You hear about us so-called experts (note, nobody actually referred to me as an expert, that was a hypothetical) telling you about using pull learning techniques rather than push.  I was speaking to a client a couple of days ago and it occurred to me half way through the conversation that they hadn't actually grasped what the difference was.  Experience tells us that problems are rarely unique and I suspect there's some of you out there who (very quietly of course) don't know the difference between push and pull in elearning.  Of course, maybe everyone already does, in which case I found this interesting piece on Wikipedia about teaching granny to suck eggs..
Push elearning was once what nearly everyone produced without really knowing any better.  I guess it's the Foie Gras of the elearning world where we take our learners and we keep stuffing them full of information (although hopefully the analogy stops there!).  The problem with push learning most of the time is that it makes a huge assumption about the learners before the piece begins.  Often the normal is to play it safe and assume that your learners no nothing at all and then tell them everything whether they not it or not (granny, time to shell some more eggs).
I mentioned some of this last time with the ideas around video and how forcing your learners to watch long videos is tantamount to torture in some cultures, none more so than when they already know everything that is in the video.  To keep granny happy we can let her decide when she needs to know more.  This is the concept behind pull learning rather than push.  It also automatically makes our learning more interactive and puts the onus back on the learner to decide what they need to know to progress.  In the video example we may have a screen asking the learner a question about something.  If they know the answer then they put it in and move on.  Why ask them to learn something they already know.. makes sense right?

The reason a pull course is more interactive is that the learner is forced into choosing from the menu about what information they want.  It also caters for a far wider range of learners and different ways that learners learn.  For example you may have pull resources like audio bites, video, animation, text and even drag and drop activities that can all be used if the learner doesn't get the message we're trying to get across.  It's also much more akin to real life outside of the schooling system.  If I want to learn about something I go to the internet or I ask someone or find someone virtual or otherwise that knows more about it than me; but the way I do that may be very different from you and that's just fine.  If you want to learn then you need to find something out; and surely that's the key to learning; making the learner actually want to learn and motivated to find something out.
The hard part for us as instructional designers or elearning developers (yes, there's a difference) is that it means much of our hard work goes unappreciated.  It seems harsh that you spent hours making a really cool animation that is only going to be seen by 10% of the learners, but this is far better than forcing 90% of people to do something they don't need to do - after all their job is not to marvel at your skills in animation but to subtly appreciate your skills in designing effective learning.

I like Tom Kuhlman's approach to elearning with Articulate and now Storyline:  read this article if you want to know a bit more about this approach :)

If you haven't started designing pull training yet, give it a go.  It works great in your face to face sessions too if you know how to apply the same principles and takes a great deal of pressure off you the instructor/trainer/teacher.  If you need some help in working out what to do with this and where to start then drop me a line.. we can talk about the best tools and how to actually start designing this way.

As usual the opinions in my blog are always my own and if they happen to be correct that in itself is probably more by luck than judgement.  You can find me on LinkedIn or @NigelKineo on Twitter or by email:

Friday, 15 June 2012

Video Killed the Flash Developer

Sorry but I'm one of those people who once a song gets in his head it has a hard time finding its way out.  Since yesterday when a client asked me lots of questions about bringing video into their elearning modules I haven't been able to shift Video Killed the Radio Star out of my frontal lobes (don't even get me started on the irony of the song being the first video on MTV).  The follow on was that I made sure the client was aware of the time and place for video and its usage in elearning.  I wanted to make sure they understood there was a time and a place for video usage (not to mention a format and length, quality etc etc) and that it wasn't a mutually exclusive decision whereby video killed other media production; hence my dramatic title.

What's right and what's wrong about video in learning is essentially the same thing.  In the simplest of terms it's media rich (lots going on), very easy to produce something with minimal effort and it fills a lot of space.  The good things around that are that you can produce some really effective learning pieces quickly; particularly when you pair them with rapid elearning tools like Articulate, Storyline or RolePlay (and these will often provide the tools you need to convert them to the right sorts of format for web viewing).  Producing good video is a lot like painting (the house type, not the artsy one); it's mostly in the preparation.  There are a gazillion things to think about (lighting, size, audio etc etc) but none more important than the actual aim (no, not the direction of the camera) of what you're trying to achieve.  If you're after a head shot with a whole bunch of waffle that lasts beyond a minute or two then you may be contributing to the death of good elearning!

Now hopefully I've not offended too many homicidal developers out there; there's hope for you yet!  When I talk around having an aim, you should be looking at the video really adding something to your learning.  If there's something really technically difficult to do then yeah, this is the media for you.  Something that may take a 3-D developer weeks of development but you can get across effectively in a 15 second clip; bingo!  After all just because your video is media rich doesn't mean you have to make it exclusive of other media.  When done well you'll often see short video snippets embedded and used with text, imagery and interaction.

Remember that just showing a long video in your elearning package is no different to a teacher just running that old video whilst they put their feet up or try and mark the 300 books they need to mark before tomorrow (personally I found it a pretty good hangover cure too!).  The other thing to remember about video is that when you use it on its own without adding any interaction around it then you have a one-way transmission rather than something that's truly interactive.
Just because the transmission is sent, doesn't guarantee it's received

So what are the alternatives?  Firstly, the best option is to use video sparingly rather than for every time you need to get a point across or teach something.  I mentioned earlier that it can fill a lot of space; this is true in several regards and not least of which in your consideration should be the hard disk space where your LMS probably sits too.  The other is the time your video clip runs for; as a general rule if you have a big piece of video (by big I mean minutes not hours; if yours is hours go back to the story board or give me a buzz) then look at breaking it in to snippets of generally seconds rather than minutes.  The more you can break it down the more use it will be to your learners and the better chance they have to digest replay and get the point you're trying to get across rather than just sit back and watch and think of something else (I recently reviewed someone's course with so much video I was grateful for tabbed browsing and just checked back in every so often to see if it had finished!).

One great alternative to video is to use still shots and voice or text.  This is a great replacement for the massive video introduction by your CEO.  A simple head shot and text says welcome without having to do the video.  You can voice-over if you like (as always consider your audience and their technological requirements) and even have key points flashing up (with learn more type options if you want the learner to pull information).  Don't think you're limited to one picture either, you can change expressions and poses at key points too - look at how the Kineo Essentials demo here .

Video doesn't also kill Flash when done right, there will always be a place in the elearning world for great Flash developers (yes Java you can go here too - especially if you know what SCORM means), as always it's about finding the right balance.  Too much video can be like death by any other form of media (remember slides?  or PowerPoint or Flash animations or woosh sounds or..) everything in moderation and the key is always from the perspective of the learner NOT the developer.

So the conclusion is that we can spare lives in the world of learning technologies, not by excluding video, but by embracing it and using it the right way to enhance the learning experience rather than punishing someone for daring to click here!  Overall I hope the irony of including YouTube links in to my blog is not lost on some of you.. ah well, it is easy to do after all..

As always the views here are completely my own and correct only by absolute coincidence.  Feel free to vehemently disagree with any of them and let me know by either responding on this blog or emailing me at or @nigelkineo on twitter or even by finding me on LinkedIn (Nigel Young).  No animals were actually killed during the process of this blog.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Give me a scenario

Is it true that there are no coincidences? Who knows but when something happens repeatedly at some point you have to start paying attention to the signs. Don't worry, this is not the point where I start getting all deep and meaningful or start burning incense or even get incensed, but I have had something mentioned repeatedly in the last day or so that I'm a big fan of and I thought I'd share my thoughts with everyone who reads my blogs (yes you both mean a lot to me). I'm talking about scenarios and their use in elearning.

Okay, yes I sort of did something on this before when I blogged on writing good assessments (, but that was more about how to assess using a scenario, here I want to focus on using scenarios to train and how we achieve that and even which software we should use as it's a recurrent question and a hot topic in the elearning world at least for this week.
So writing scenario based training packages takes a few things to achieve, number one you do kind of need a system to write them on and the million dollar question is normally what's the best scenario based elearning authoring tool? This is very easy to answer, but not necessarily the answer you want to hear! Buy the tool that you and your team (okay, this is actually a big point too, but we'll park it and come back to it) think is easiest to use and produces the best content. You may be asking how you know that prior to the purchase and that brings me to my first and simplest piece of advice:

try before you buy now I can tell you to my heart's content what makes xxx the greatest thing since sliced bread but the truth is if you don't like it then it's just like that nasty cheap sliced bread that you're never going to eat and just use to grow mould for antibacterial purposes. If the product doesn't come with at least a little play time before paying your dough (sorry bread metaphor is in my head and you probably already know how I run with these) then something is wrong I think. Send them an email requesting a sandpit or something.. If they won't let you at least do that then I would say it's not the product for you no matter how great some supposed expert says it. Seriously this is just like 'critically acclaimed' movies that I watch sometimes and get the sinking feeling that it's 90 minutes of my life I'll never get back (and hey my blogs don't take that long to read). In fact I've seen some pretty bad Oscar winning movies in my time that have made me both laugh and cry at the points I was supposed to be doing the opposite.

check out the support yeah yeah so it's got videos and a help file, but for me I like a support network, somewhere I can post to and get answers not from the guy who made the bread machine but from someone who actually makes the loaves day in and day out. This is what we lovingly refer to as a community. It comes with an investment in support and a good customer base. TotoraLMS has a great community and it's the strength of open source, but some commercial products are great in this area, particularly the Articulate crowd. It's not the end of the story, but it makes a difference when you can connect with people who've walked the same road or baked the same types of courses you're trying to.

work out the true costs there's an old adage that you get what you pay for. I've adapted this slightly because I think it should say something like at best you get what you pay for, because some very expensive systems are worse than the cheap ones. But true cost for me is financial and time. If a system is cheaper but takes an age to learn, or worse still produces poor results that you'll need to redo and touch up again and again then it's a false economy. The other side of economy is to do with the number of users and licensing model. Once upon a time cloud (what we used to call Internet) software solutions or SaaS (software as a service) was an automatic bad choice for my money as the Internet simply wasn't fast enough to guarantee a good feel, that's becoming less and less of an issue (yes, even in New Zealand!). Cloud based software can often offer the advantages of many users that might be required for scenario based software. Take for example RolePlay; been getting lots of good feedback on this Kiwi cloud product made specifically for scenario based elearning. The great advantage comes when you have lots of trainers around the organisation, with this type of system you don't have to have multiple installs or worry about where the trainer is working from. Of course value wise Storyline offers a great buy, but my point on economy comes down to the number of users you actually have who need the software.

branches galore like all good trees and banks you'll want a system that can support branching scenarios effectively and easily. The first Storyline piece I put together I found really straightforward compared to how I used to put together Captivate products a couple of years ago. Your system should not only support multiple branches from quizzes and choices but also arrange them nice and easily for you to follow what you've done! To write a good scenario piece you'll need to plan out your storyboard and think about what and where each choice is going to take you. Try not to be too linear in your design so that your user thinks they have a number of ways to go rather than they must take the one preset path through the maze. I think it's very frustrating to keep having to go back before you go forward each time in

don't force feed in scenarios this may be even more important than ever, but no one really likes having to do stuff and watch ten minute videos when the already know the answer. The best examples I've seen here use the pull idea rather than push, provide lots of options for users to get more information if they want to. For example, you could have books and video resources in the learning if they want to click on the book or video icons, otherwise let them go through quickly if they get it. Sure this means that some people will never see the groovy animation you spent ages making, but that's fine, the learning is about the learner not the developer!

let the user know how they're doing no, not just by telling them their score at the end, but by using characters and expressions when things are going right. A great customer service piece for example, will show how the customer is feeling with the responses that are given, not just with the words but with facial expressions and the voice if using audio too.

I guess that's all for now.. Again I find myself blogging on elearning late at night on my trusty iPad so forgive any typos that probably exist. The next blog will be off the computer probably as my partner is off on a training course in Singapore tomorrow so she's going to 'borrow' the pad for a few days; I will miss them both and I wonder how a worldwide IT company can afford to send its staff on overseas trips to deliver knowledge based learning.. Maybe there's a scenario they could explore too!

As usual all opinions and ideas are probably stolen from somewhere else and palmed off as my own. Feel free to hit me back with suggestions or comments, subscribe, retweet or plagiarise this content. I can be found hiding unsuccessfully at @nigelkineo and even sometimes in person!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Auckland,New Zealand