Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Ghost of eLearning Future

During my 5+ years as an eLearning developer, I've continually wondered what our industry would look like if we didn't become entrenched in decade(s) old bad habits. What if we could truly embrace advances in web design and development, and not insist on CD-Rom era course structures and flashy... Flash?

Sure, we'll probably always be a bit behind the times, but glossaries? Tables of contents? Locked linear navigation? These kinds of book navigation metaphors were all hold overs from an era before the Internet went mainstream and people became comfortable with web technology (like scroll bars). The familiar concept of a book was a mental anchor secured in reality while one trekked into the scary unknown technology realm of the early 1990's. To me, this is as outdated a navigation structure as AOL keywords, so to still be using it so heavily in 2013 is beyond absurd. Yet it's unchecked prevalence is overwhelming.

Then, just when I had almost forgotten what it was like to be inspired as an eLearning developer, I came across Snowfall, a New York Times multimedia feature experiment. If you haven't, I highly recommend taking a few minutes to truly delve into it's splendor.

Each time I view compelling web content like this, it's like a visitation from the Ghost of eLearning Future to warn of all the cool stuff we'll miss out on if we continue our same tired old habits of eLearning past. I'm far from the first to say so, but nothing ever seems to truly shake things up.

Here are my main take-a-ways from the Snowfall piece:

This is what real HTML5 looks like.
Forget the marketing hype (or flat out lies) many vendors proclaim about tools publishing to HTML5. THIS is what HTML5 (and related web technologies) can do. We should expect nothing less for eLearning. To be fair, vendors are breaking new ground with HTML5 publishing options, so they need some time to work out the kinks. However, to only focus on replacing PowerPoint to Flash conversion with PowerPoint to HTML5 conversion completely misses the point in my opinion. Ditch the slides. Embrace the scroll.

This is the future of consuming content online.
Compelling storytelling. Well thought-out visual design. Multimedia content that reinforces text. Responsive page layouts and content (adapting to a whatever device screen viewed on). All of these work beautifully together, as they should. This is the future of web content, and it's wonderful. Let's get on board before we're left at the station.

This is what eLearning could and should be!
I'm willing to accept that as an industry, eLearning development will always lag behind cutting edge technology trends and even take a while to adopt established best practices. However, I'm not comfortable repeating the same past mistakes. In my opinion, we should push to make this new kind of content delivery a reality.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Unconventional eLearning Simulation

Last year during the Articulate Storyline beta, I created an unconventional "eLearning" simulation.

Since I typically spend work days creating conventional corporate training courses (sales training at the time), I wanted to try something completely different and also experiment with some ideas:

What if the goal of a simulation was to do tasks incorrectly? Could that actually reinforce correct behavior?
  • What if avatars were jerks and gave you bad advice?
  • What if you were yelled at and insulted instead of monotonously encouraged and congratulated? 
  • Could an eLearning authoring tool be used to tell an interactive story?
Somewhere in the recesses of my imagination, I came up with Carl's Clunkers, a sleazy car salesman simulation. 

As you'll see, the high quality images of people from eLearningArt played a strong role. All of the sources of the assets used are listed at the end.
Post a comment if you have any feedback or questions about how I made this unconventional simuation.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Moving into 2013

2012 was a huge year for me personally. I started a new job in August, became a father (again) in September, and achieved several personal goals I set earlier in the year including running 5k.

As far as eLearning, I was involved in both the Articulate Storyline and Lectora 11 Betas, and posted several eLearning related blog posts on other sites last year (often to the neglect of this one). Here are all 13:

Realizing the Potential of the Tin Can API

Product Reviews:
3 Defining Features of Articulate Storyline
ReviewLink: Online Review Tool for Lectora

Effective Visual Design Series:
Part 1 – Being an Advocate for Good Design
Part 2 – Solving Problems Visually
Part 3 – Choosing Colors, Fonts & Images

eLearning Development Tips:
Using White Space for Clutter-Free eLearning
Keeping eLearning Readable – Visual Readability
Call to Action Items in eLearning

Lectora Tutorials:
Extending Lectora with an iFrame
Lectora Best Practices Part 1 – Optimizing Preferences
Lectora Best Practices Part 2 - Variables and Actions
Lectora Best Practices Part 3 – Using Text

I'm looking forward to 2013. I'm planning to step up my game on several fronts when it comes to my work. So far things are going great. Hopefully you are off to a good start into 2013 as well!