Getting the Best Out Of Your eLearning Content

Unicorn’s first ever SkillsServe User Forum – ‘Getting the Best Out Of Your eLearning Content’ – got a big thumbs up from around 40 delegates representing all sectors across the financial services industry in London yesterday (Thursday 17 November).

The main aims of the day were to
• demonstrate how to get the best out of SkillsServe’s easy to use content creation and management features
• provide practical hands-on tips on widely available rapid development tools, and
• most importantly, listen to what our customers want most from future enhancements to SkillsServe.

Unicorn chairman Peter Phillips opened the London event, saying, “The world of eLearning is changing rapidly with new technologies creating exciting opportunities for more engaging and effective online learning. There are ways of creating and delivering content that we just couldn’t do three or four years ago. There is more complexity in eLearning delivery but much more opportunity to be creative and effective.”

Here’s an overview of the main bits from each of the presentations……

1. Using Powerpoint with Articulate and iSpring (presented by Senior Web Designer, Steve Andrews)

Steve looked at how firms can create their own rapid eLearning content using PowerPoint and two of the leading plug-ins, Articulate and iSpring. He did stress that other tools were also available.

Why use PowerPoint? Because it is very easy to use and update. The plug-ins enable the publication of SCORM and AICC compatible Flash files, which can then easily be uploaded to a company’s LMS.

People spend so much time online now that there is a basic high consumer expectation about web pages looking good. Both Articulate and iSpring help produce professional, clean, good looking eLearning. Both also have built in quiz maker tools (among others) which extend their functionality.

1) Articulate – is a good place to start. It comes with a set of pre-made templates making it very quick and easy to create/edit eLearning. There is a very good online community so answers on how to do things are very readily available and Articulate is a very well established brand so you know you are not investing in a product that is about to go bust.

But…..although Articulate can be great for smaller projects requiring few interventions, the limited number of templates means Articulate-created screens can get repetitive. Also there is little room to be creative in the templates as all you are doing is inserting content.

2) iSpring – content is created in PowerPoint and published via iSpring. This is simple and there is a lot more scope to be creative because you are not working in templates – each slide/screen can look the way you want it to. This means you can avoid repetition, which is likely to be more interesting and engaging for the end user. iSpring is also a third of the cost of Articulate currently.

But…..iSpring’s plus points are also its weaknesses as inevitably the eLearning is a bit more time consuming to produce (need to think about how it is going to look and source the various elements you want) and also requires someone with decent PowerPoint skills.

Neither Articulate nor iSpring produce mobile-ready content as they publish Flash files but both have promised mobile versions will be available early next year.

Steve also provided a list of useful media resources websites, blogs and design inspiration websites to help people explore how to best create their own rapid eLearning content.

2. eBriefing Tool Best Practice (presented by Clients Solutions Executive, Penny Humphries)

The eBriefing tool comes as an inbuilt option in SkillsServe enabling clients to produce very, very quick bitesize chunks of content.

It currently has pretty basic look, so you wouldn’t really want to create anything over 10 pages long, but it is great for getting out urgent eLearning or communications that have a short shelf life to an audience, which can be tracked on who looked at it when and how long they spent on it.

Penny opened the discussion up to the floor asking what sort of content clients could best use this tool for. Top responses included:
• product updates
• management communications
• CEO updates
• sales launch
• general office updates – such as a move
• technical/industry updates
• compliance / regulation and policy updates
• company policy updates
• newsletters
• grouping general unicorn training with a company specific eBriefing with an assessment into one programme

Delegates were then asked what features they would like to see incorporated into the eBriefing tool and votes were cast on how urgently they would like them so that the SkillsServe development team could prioritise which features to work on first.

The top suggestions included a template creation facility for clients to create their own templates, publishing workflows, a spellchecker, copying from PDF and PowerPoint and better course organisation/folder structure to hold the eBriefings in.

3. Getting the most out of your content on SkillsServe (presented by IT Director, Stuart Jones, and Senior UX Designer, Eddie Yanez)

Stuart and Eddie are responsible for taking all the feedback from the forum and trying to use it to upgrade existing, and produce new, SkillsServe features to make for an even easier, quicker and more intuitive user experience both for administrators and end users.

Stuart talked about how empowering clients to create, upload and manage their own content was a core part of SkillsServe original development plan and how, regardless of how a client primarily uses the system (eLearning, CPD, professional qualifications, assessments etc), each system is unique to each client.

He walked through a step-by-step guide on how clients can add content to catalogues and manage catalogues. He also explained how you can capture data on how long people have spent on a piece of eLearning, useful for recording CPD activity.

Stuart also discussed what is on the SkillsServe roadmap of soon to be available features including enhanced CPD functionality, webinars, better reporting charts and graphs and mobile integration.

Eddie further demonstrated the new Content Manager area and how to produce programmes of activity using SkillsServe’s new quicker and more effective ‘shopping cart’ type approach. He also showcased the re-designed Assessment System capable of handling large question banks, and the new Registrations Wizard tool.

4. Why the professional touch is sometimes still best (presented by Chairman, Peter Phillips)

Peter looked at the value of instructional design in creating outstanding, innovative eLearning beyond anything any of the rapid development tools are capable of. These are projects where you want much greater levels of engagement, and are prepared to invest the time and resources to achieve that.

He discussed how the days of linear ‘fact, fact, fact, assessment’ were over and now there was a much greater focus on identifying a measureable goal, the behaviours you want to effect to achieve that goal and only include information in the eLearning that is going to enable the learner to do their job better and achieve that pre-identified goal.

The key to this is creating an experience with context that has meaning and significance to the learner. Peter demonstrated some examples of impactful and engaging eLearning that Unicorn has developed over the past year for clients including Chartis, Volkswagen Financial Services and BNY Mellon.

He also looked at what eLearning can learn from the games industry with key points including:
• giving the learner options – letting them explore / roam around
• frequent feedback on how they are doing as they progress
• measure progress – creating a feel-good factor and sense of achievement
• introducing an element of probability/risk
• use of high quality graphics
• adaptive systems – if a user is making fast progress, move them on quickly
• use humour and surprise – appropriate light humour is unexpected in eLearning and enhances engagement
• peer motivation – how has learner fared against colleagues, top five scores etc. The SkillsServe platform enables information from other learners to be collated.

Peter then rounded off his session with two of his favourite examples of eLearning – the hugely-engaging and freely available ‘MP for a Week’, produced for the Parliamentary Education Service, and an outstanding example of visualisation in the US Civil War in Four Minutes.

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