We were really pleased to see Articulate showcase one of our projects at the eLearning Guild’s behemoth DevLearn Conference and Expo in Las Vegas last week!
The project in question followed a call to arms from Articulate to the eLearning community to create a learning interaction around the Ebola outbreak using its Storyline2 rapid development tool. Possible suggestions included guides on current knowledge, what is required to treat an Ebola patient each day and interactive maps and timelines for example.
This was a perfect project to get the creative juices flowing in our new Unicorn Labs, and Joanna Kurpiewska from our Content Development Team wasted little time in rising to the challenge, creating an piece of eLearning focussing on volunteer recruitment using varying Storyline2 interactions to display information in new and interesting ways.
Click on the image below to see the demo
Officially launched in September, Unicorn Labs provides a home for our content developers to really push their creative minds to the max, developing ideas and designing learning that may currently be outside the scope of ongoing client briefs, but that can provide inspiration and lay foundations for future project proposals and course developments.
So what does Unicorn Labs mean for you? Laura Hooper Head of Content Development, spills the beans.
1) So what is Unicorn Labs?
There are so many brilliant ideas that people have which never get the chance to be developed because everyone is always so busy.
But we want our team to have the chance to develop ideas for a projects they’ve always wanted to work on and we want them to have fun doing it because that gets reflected in the learning they produce.
Unicorn Labs is a chance for our team to develop that idea at work using their existing skills or by learning new ones for personal development. There are no limits to ideas that can be explored; nothing is too offbeat, weird or wonderful.
If the idea gets a positive reaction within Unicorn, we’ll make it a internal project and create a template to add to Unicorn’s armoury! And if it doesnt work, at least we know!
2) What does that mean for clients?
That we have a constant stream of fresh new ideas, which push the boundaries of creativity but that have been tested with the principles of good instructional design and learning outcomes at their heart. There’s no point having awesome ideas that look great if the learning falls down.
That’s why we create an internal project first, so that by the time a client sees it the ID principles behind each idea have been tried and tested.
It also gives clients interested in bespoke content an idea of just the level of creativity and design excellence that our team is capable of. They might want to pursue a completely new idea or concept but Unicorn Labs provides them with a glimpse of exactly what could be possible.
3) Where does the inspiration for themes come from?
Ideas really can come from anywhere, they don’t just have to be driven by the content team. But one channel we have used as inspiration for pushing creativity is through the weekly Articulate Challenges.
This is where Articulate throws down the gauntlet to the global eLearning community to meet a need or answer a question through designing an effective piece of eLearning using Storyline.
It gives eLearning designers the chance to learn, share, try new skills, find inspiration, and build their portfolios, which in turn benefits the eLearning companies they work for and ultimately clients.
Joanna’s showcased Ebola Outbreak Training interaction was one idea that came out of an Articulate Challenge as was this ‘Zombies Are Coming’ – also designed by Joanna – example.
Click on the image below to see the demo
4) How else is Unicorn pushing the creative boundaries?
One of our content team, Steve Andrews, has been part of the Articulate Storyline beta testing groups and committees. These activities and the profile its gives us through Articulate and the Storyline community, enables us to establish ourselves as experts in our field.
It also give us a mouthpiece on and input into how tools can be developed to ensure they are up-to-date with what is actually wanted by clients day-to-day not what the eLearning community thinks clients will want just because there’s some cool new technology.
*The Unicorn Labs demo site is coming soon – you won’t want to miss out!
One feature of DevLearn is the concurrent sessions. In each 1 hour timeslot there may be a dozen or more of these sessions to choose from, so Jackie and I generally split up and cover different topics.
Wednesday started with an excellent morning buzz discussion group led by Jay Cross. Jay is an interesting guy, very knowledgeable and the theme was about working smarter with the information that is available to us. The discussion centred around the use of social media and how we aggregate the enormous amount of information available into a meaningful collection of data.
Useful information can be found at www.jaycross.com and you can follow him at #LRNCHAT on Twitter
It is easy to see that the expanding amount of information will cause confusion, it will be impossible to keep ahead or up to date. Imagine, by the time you have arranged a training course the subject area/best practice guidance may have moved on!
The next session on Jackie’s agenda was to visit the presentation given by Cammy Bean titled Clicky Clicky Bling Bling, or CCBB for short!
We Brits have to stick together, so the only concurrent session that we both attended was the last one titled “The New Learning Architect” by the Uk’s very own eLearning guru Clive Shepherd.
After an entertaining rant about the problems of putting learning theory and best principles into practice, Clive went on to sketch out his architecture for organising the learning process to match the means, motives and opportunities of the target learners.
The conference ended with an entertaining “Impact” session – 6 presentations each of a single idea in 5 minutes and 20 slides. For some obscure reason we call it “Pecha Kucha” in the UK.
The keynote speaker on Thursday was Steve Rosenbaum – another excellent keynote session. It has been a really good line up this year.
Steve gave several examples of the information avalanche, including that it would take you 8 years to watch one day’s uploads of video to Youtube, and that there are now 140 billion photos on Facebook, half of which have been uploaded within the past 12 months!
A few of the practical takeaways that I noted:
We looked at the Native App vs Browser debate. Listing the benefits of each it becomes clear that the benefits of apps are largely for the user, whereas the benefits of Web are largely for the developer.
Phil demonstrated how to take a piece of learning developed in Flash (CS5.5) and publish it to mobile platforms.
It all got a bit technical for me, but in essence Phil showed how we (well our Flash team) can use the “Device Central” feature to publish to Adobe Air for Playbook, for Android, and for iOS, in each case creating a native App not a Flash file. In fact, publishing for the Apple platform is easier than Android as there is only a single standard instead of dozens.
All this and the Demo Fest too. We even managed to fit in the Rod Stewart concert at Caesar’s Palace – some guys have all the luck!
One of the most useful aspects of DevLearn is the Vendor Expo.
Here’s Jackie stabbing wildly at an LMS voodoo doll.
ZebraZapps – Allen Interactions made a big stripy splash at last year’s Devlearn , announcing their plans for a new cloud based approach to content development and asking volunteers to sign up for beta testing.
Underlying this development is a belief that the future of on-line learning will be granular, cloud based, with flexible aggregation of reusable assets to create unique learning experiences.
iSpring – the developers of our favourite Powerpoint based rapid authoring tool were showcasing some innovative new features, including AS3 compatibility. They also tell us they will have export to HTML5 by Spring next year. I see us making a lot more use of iSpring in the coming 12 months.
Nexlearn – This is the third year we have spent time at the NexLearn stand. They have a really impressive SimWriter tool for rapid creation of high quality branching case studies and simulations. We’ve previously been deterred by the cost, but they now provide a $1500 entry level version which looks to meet all our needs. We have a project for a branching case study in the pipeline so this could be the year we take the plunge.
Plenty of old friends too – Codebaby, eLearning Bros, Rapid Intake, GoToTraining and it was good to catch up with Lani and Sarah at the Sound 80 stand and sample Angies’s authentic Kettle Corn, Milwaukee’s finest. If you are looking for US voices for your elearning, then we highly recommend Sound 80.
This is actually Day 1 of the conference proper and my themes of the day were engagement and mobility.
The opening keynote speaker Michio Kaku is a theoretical physicist and futurologist. His vision is of computer power so cheap and ubiquitous it will be as invisible and taken for granted as electricity.
Within a few years, we will all wear intelligent contact lenses that automatically recognise faces (no more “Have we met before”) while enabling us to browse the web in full 3D while our car drives itself home where our toilet will warn us about upcoming illnesses in time to get them fixed by uor virtual doctor available 24-7 on our interactive wallpaper who will prescribe an intelligent pill or a molecule sized cancer cell zapper. You get the picture!
The main messages for the eLearning community were that learning will be mobile, always on, and that it had better be engaging to grab the attention of the coming generation of learners.
If that session was blue sky, the second Keynote later in the day was distinctly Cloudy. Tom Koulopoulos took us through the evolution of the cloud and what it really means for the future of how we work and how we learn. Here he is on YouTube
My first breakout session was led by Rick Raymer, a games designer of 20 years experience, now applying his experience to eLearning. I’m a great believer that we have a lot to learn from gaming, and this session didn’t disappoint. firstname.lastname@example.org
What games do well is Engagement. According to Rick , engagement occurs when the brain is rewarded. The reward itself must evoke emotion – wanting and liking. In a learning context, even something as simple as leaderboards on the LMS can create a sense of reward.
Rick discussed two models of game design, the Linear model, only too familiar to the elearning world and the Hub model. The hub model gives the user much more freedom of choice, while the designer can turn on and off individual spokes, or make then unidirectional or conditional, in order to control the flow through the game / course. Tremble in fear, Unicorn ID team, the Hub is coming!
There were some interesting insights on optimal flow – at what points do you introduce the Boss battles (better known to us as Tests) and what do you do immediately before and after?
Lots of practical advice too including a 35 question Concept Evaluation form.
The key words to summarise the session were – user choice, measure progress, provide feedback – visually, reward effort – frequently, include risk and chance, surprise and delight.
You can get a lot more of Rick’s ideas here http://elearnmag.acm.org/featured.cfm?aid=2031772
It was a pretty full day. We also saw the launch of new Articulate StoryLine and a sat in on a thought provoking session by Vito Amato of Cisco on planning for next generation elearning in large organsiations.
Highlight though, as always was the vendor expo. I’ll do a separate blog on that.
There is nothing remotely like DevLearn in Europe. It is arguable whether the US leads the world in eLearning, but it certainly leads the world in the strength, size and diversity of its eLearning community.
power of focused group creativity.
Here’s Jackie (more photogenic than me) considering whether to leap. That far rim is 14 miles away!