We’ve talked a lot recently about the understated importance of user experience (UX) in learning, and how to improve it. But it’s not just learning or web design UX that are important to our everyday lives. In fact, the user experiences that have the biggest effect on us are physical user experiences.
What do I mean? Well, it’s any off-screen experience, from a trip to a shopping centre to navigating a hospital. Your commute, your grocery shopping, your evening meal at a restaurant… all of these are user experiences that have been designed, and so can be improved, as can our learning.
Alright, so it’s been well over a year now since we all started to hear whispers of a revolution within the digital dimension. I think it’s safe to say that we’re not quite at the point where we can celebrate some sort of VR Bastille day just yet. But let’s look at what we already know about VR learning, and where it’s going.
As Egle mentioned in her recent blog, much like gamification before it, VR/AR is in vogue at the moment. Her hesitancy to jump on the virtual bandwagon is valid, but I want to take this opportunity to make the case for why VR is here to stay (and why it’s going to take over).
‘All hail the kale’ was a big craze on the health food scene a year or so ago. Incidentally, that was the first thing that I thought of when I saw all the VR/AR banners at the Learning Technologies 2017 show a few weeks back.
Virtual Reality seems to have finally arrived and as learning designers we’re tempted to buy into its promise of effortless learner engagement and, let’s be honest, an opportunity to play around with the gadgets ourselves!
One of my Saffron colleagues wrote a blog last year, Musings on my performance appraisal, in which he considered how he could build time into his day for reflection on improving business performance. Well, his blog did part of its job, getting me thinking – well, reflecting to be more accurate – on the power of reflection. One reflection led to another and then to this blog, where I’m exploring the impact reflection can have on learning.
Reflection is a search for connections, a way of linking and constructing meaning from our learning and experiences that encourages the creation of insights and even wisdom. Reflection links a current experience to previous learnings. This involves drawing upon cognitive and emotional downloads from a variety of sources including visual, auditory, kinesthetic and tactile, as well as intuition. Reflection creates self-knowledge; it helps us take responsibility for our own learning and development; it is a tool for continuous improvement.
Many of us, after what seems like weeks of eating, drinking and being merry will vow to start the year with a healthy new outlook. Resolutions to ‘cut out wine’, ‘eat more veg’ and ‘start jogging’ will be flying around. Many of these will have been given up on, if not completely forgotten, by January 15th.
So I’m here to make 2017 the year that you stick to at least one resolution, because I’ve got some really great, easy ones for you to put on the list. I give you –
Emily’s Learning Resolutions for 2017
Anyone with access to a mobile device, a newspaper, or even a pair of eyes will be aware of the recent craze, ‘Pokémon GO’ hitting the world by storm over the last two months. The app based game, which incentivises walking outside so that the user can collect Pokémon and grow their collection, peaked with almost 45 million worldwide users in July. So what does this tell us about the future of augmented reality? Or even the future of elearning?
It’s 7:05, you left the house two minutes late, struggled with your keys in the door and have just got to the end of the road to see your bus heading towards the bus stop at a startling rate. You have two options here – your survival instincts kick in – it’s fight or flight time. Instead of waiting for the next bus and risking being late for work you choose the latter. You set yourself the target, “if I can get there in the next six seconds, I will make it and the rest of my day can run to plan.” So you run, legs flailing and briefcase akimbo, feet pounding the concrete. You see the queue of people lessen and you know that any second now that plastic door will shut and your dreams will hit a harsh reality. But no! The adrenaline pumps through your body and pushes you just that little bit faster and you slam your hand out just in time. You made it! The driver laughs, your fellow passengers woop and applaud. As you make your way down the centre aisle, school children, ladies with prams and pensioners high five you and congratulate you on your achievement. Well…not quite, but it feels pretty good to set short term goals and achieve them doesn’t it?
So what is simulation?
Simulation in elearning is a fully immersive experience in which real-life situations are replicated to interact with the learner. A good use of simulations thrusts the learner into a scenario and grip them enough to absorb and learn by doing. This is a rapidly growing trend in elearning and one that Saffron have been talking about forever! But it appears to have suddenly made resurgence as the need for ‘engagement’ in learning becomes more essential. It’s an exciting concept for a graphic designer. Executed well, simulations in learning provide learners with intuitive interactions, premium videography and fully immersive communication. A great example of simulation elearning has been recently created by the Resuscitation Council UK. The ‘Life-saver’ simulation aims to spread knowledge on CPR to the general public. The outcome is compelling, intriguing and educational all rolled into one. Yep it’s what every creative team within elearning strive for… So how has this been achieved? Keep reading!
Thesis v1: Bespoke elearning will never be produced by robots. Artificial intelligence is simply not going to replace the blood, sweat and tears of instructional designers, graphic designers, developers and project managers.
And when it does, we will find other things for them to do.
Let me explain. An algorithm can put text and pictures together and format them. An algorithm can assemble meaningful questions from raw content. In other words, an algorithm can probably do what a bad instructional designer or a bad elearning developer can do.
But the algorithm cannot choose the best picture. The algorithm cannot devise the right question. It cannot do what a good instructional designer can do. And as soon as it can, the good instructional designer will go one better.
I’m being deliberately contradictory. And this blog post is not the place to solve the conundrum of what endows a digital object with value. But I suspect it’s human effort, not software.
Virtual reality (VR) has been talked about so frequently, both in and out of the learning industry that it seems to have lost its buzz. For a technology that would offer gamers, and now learners, the chance to experience a scenario first hand, the hype around it seems to have run itself into the ground.
The era of sitting in-front of a monitor screen, learning click-by-click with traditional elearning courses, will soon be thrown out of the window. Learning by simulation, putting people into a representation of their real working environment, will become the norm.
Virtual technology allows learners the freedom to move freely around an environment, interacting with objects, carrying out tests, making decisions (and mistakes) until they have mastered the learning objectives. Confucius once said about learning “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” Virtual technology gives learners the ability to ‘see’ and to ‘do’, helping them remember and understand difficult content.
Saffron Interactive to deliver key seminar on strategic use of playlists and personalisation at Learning Technologies exhibition
Saffron Interactive (stand E13), will be hosting a seminar on both days of the Learning Technologies exhibition on 3 – 4 February. Attendees will gain invaluable insights into practical personalisation for learning and performance technologies, including concrete examples of solutions that have delivered return on investment.
I’ve just finished my placement year of my engineering degree at Saffron Interactive. But my placement journey began not at Saffron, but a while before that. Having been rejected from a few multinational tech organisations (not going to name any names), I felt deflated and so I decided to venture into a different field: elearning.
eLearning was an alien concept – not so much the invention itself, but in the thought process behind it. It felt for me like an after-thought, something that was regurgitated by companies who didn’t have the time or resources to give their workers or learners their full-fledged attention. Instead they could only afford to sit them down and have them interact with a plethora of meaningless multimedia, hoping that the information was actually being transmitted. How wrong I was. Now I feel proud to say I’ve worked in this industry, especially alongside the pioneers of learning technologies.
With my placement year at Saffron coming to an end, I’ve decided to reflect upon my time and articulate seven things that I learnt here as an engineering student.
There’s been a colossal amount of development in AI research. Last week my colleague Jay wrote about the origins of artificial intelligence (AI) and its application to modern day society. Today I want to talk about its future and highlight some of the challenges that currently prevent AI from becoming mainstream in learning technologies.
In elearning there are undoubtedly benefits to using artificial intelligences which correspond and react to human behaviour. Wherever it may not be possible or desirable to incorporate real people (for example, a mentor who guides you through the introduction to a programme or LMS) is where an artificial intelligence can come into play. A system that learns with the student simultaneously and acts as a peer that can match its own capabilities to that of a human creates just the right level of competition.
Remember that AI has been involved with computer games for decades. By 1950, Alan Turing had invented a software programme to play chess named Turbochamp. There was no computer powerful enough to run the programme at the time, so Turing played games himself by simulating the computer – taking half an hour per move. Finally, in 1997, the hardware caught up with the software. IBM built a computer program, Deep Blue, which beat the world chess champion at what he does best – chess. The involvement of AI in computer games gets us thinking about how it could be used as part of a gamification strategy: a simple AI program could compete with learners in an adaptive way in order to produce a more challenging and addictive elearning experience.
Although artificial intelligence as an independent field of study is relatively new, it has some roots in the distant past. In fact, we could say that it started 2,400 years ago when the Greek philosopher Aristotle invented the concept of logical reasoning! The effort to finalise the language of logic continued with Leibniz and Newton. George Boole developed Boolean algebra in the nineteenth century, which finally led to the base design of computer circuits.
However, the main idea of a thinking machine came from Alan Turing, who developed a hypothetical model for a ‘Turing engine’ that could handle any algorithmic computation, and proposed the Turing test which is still used today to measure the success of artificial intelligences. The term “artificial intelligence” itself was first coined by John McCarthy in 1956.
AI is now known as the science and engineering of making intelligent machines, especially intelligent computer programs. It’s related to the concept of using computers to understand human intelligence, but AI does not have to confine itself to methods that are biologically observable.
More and more often, a website is part of the blend for a successful change campaign. The most obvious example is a learning programme which engages with a wide, public, audience. This will require a place to host elearning which also performs a few other functions: links to resources, news updates and contact details. A website is the logical solution.
To coincide with Ragnarok, the predicted Viking apocalypse, on 22 February 2014 (along with Viking events up and down the country) Saffron Interactive asked leading members of the learning and development community to tell us what they thought (or hoped) would be wiped out in 2014.
The HTML5 mark-up language has now been around for about three years. It’s not yet fully recommended by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) but, as of last December, it’s well on the way. Some of us have already embraced the change, thrown out Flash and welcomed HTML5 into our e-learning content. But what does HTML5 actually deliver above and beyond Flash? Is it right for you?
These days, whizz-bang platforms in the world of e-learning are aplenty. The problem is that great content isn’t. In fact, the typical experience of e-learning content remains so negative that to many outsiders the word itself seems somehow doom-laden and ill-fated. (Forget this preconception at your peril, by the way.)
This year, the Learning at Work Day theme is ‘Learning for Growth’. The constant availability of mobile learning already makes it ideal for self-development, but are you making the most of this medium?
In the last few weeks at Saffron Interactive there has been a lot of talk about gamification. For those that attended the recent Learning Technologies Exhibition you may have have seen one of our seminars debating the pro’s and cons of looking to videogames to provide an example for increasing engagement in L&D. We have also developed a new mobile assessment game based on the Bribery Act. This lead to a lot of interest and also a lot of questions on what makes something an example of gamification and what practical steps can we take to bring this increasingly popular theory into the training mix?
This is a report back from my first day working at Saffron Interactive. Apologies for the short delay, but you’ll understand that I have been very busy for the last month! In an exciting start to my Saffron career I spent my first day attending the Learning and Skills Group (LSG) conference at Olympia – a great way to be introduced to the world of e-learning.
On Wednesday 13th April, Spurs were knocked out of the Champions League by Real Madrid, bringing great sadness upon my heart. The manner of the defeat is not relevant to augmented reality technology in any sense, but I’d like to think that it provides anecdotal evidence that I’d been planning this blog well before this article appeared on the BBC website.
With their apparent ubiquity amongst office staff, their ease of use, and their mobile connectivity, BlackBerry phones make an attractive platform for e-learning. Here’s our list of things to consider when designing training for this new and different learning environment.
We at Saffron don’t like to pigeon hole ourselves as simply training providers. Yes, we design and develop e-learning, but we do a whole lot more than that too. We’re all about performance improvement and people productivity, and there are more ways to achieve those things than training alone.
Imagine a fully immersive virtual environment created for a safety training product, for example. If this environment is presented to the learner using techniques similar to those used to create a game’s 3D environment, would they not find the experience closer to the real situation and would it not leave a more lasting impression?
It may sound harsh to say that the best thing about X Factor is the ad breaks, but that’s the conclusion I’ve started to reach recently. To be fair, it hasn’t just been Jedward’s tuneless pogoing or the stress of Deadlock that has me urging on the commercials, but rather the innovative ‘brightdancing’ spots for TalkTalk which bookend the ad breaks.
‘Show your mouse the finger’, written by Angus last week, talked about the types of cool futuristic gadgets and interfaces that made up Spielberg’s futuristic vision of the world in 2054 in the film Minority Report. I actually think that we may not have to wait another 45 years to realise some of the technologies used in the film.
In 1999 director Steven Spielberg assembled a team of 15 of the world’s leading futurologists and scientists and tasked them with creating a plausible vision of what life would be like in the year 2054. The best ideas were picked and used in the film Minority Report.
A couple of years ago Adobe acquired an online word processor called BuzzWord from a company called Virtual Ubiquity in order to further enhance their collection of online applications. The web-based word processor was built using the Flex framework which is part of the Adobe product line and targeted at creating rich internet applications (RIAs) that can be deployed to the web or desktop through the Flash and AIR runtime environments. So how user-friendly and effective is BuzzWord as an online word processor?
At Saffron, we are always excited by new technologies which can be used as tools to enhance learning and usability. One of the many interesting projects I am currently involved in is the development of a RIA (rich internet application) product, using Microsoft’s Silverlight platform.