Tag Archive | DevLearn

BLOG: Creative Recipes Bubble In Unicorn Labs…..

devlearnWe 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

ebola_storylineOfficially 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 UnLABSicorn’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!

BLOG: 15-love to Unicorn ‘Rock’ Jackie

Jackie attends DevLearn in Las Vegas in 2011

Jackie attends DevLearn in Las Vegas in 2011

As Unicorn marks our 25th birthday in lots of fun ways, one of our ‘stalwarts’ also celebrates an anniversary within an anniversary as 2013 is Chief Operating Officer, Jackie Kennedy’s 15th year with us. A ‘Unicorn stick of rock’, Jackie lives and breathes Unicorn and “cares immensely about my Unicorn family.” So why the big love-in? Jackie reflects on her 15 years at the Unicorn coalface.

“So….15 years, my, how things have changed! With such a landmark I thought it might be cool to capture a few of my thoughts about how things have changed both for the company and for me personally.

“Rewind 15 years. From day one I knew this was going to be complete sea change for me. I was used to a corporate environment, with an established way of working and I was entering a small family-run partnership, which had a slightly unorthodox approach and a creative vibe. I am a Leo, a natural leader and a born organiser, joining the Unicorn family could not have been more different to what I was used to!

“My first role was varied, acting as Office Manager, Receptionist, Quality Assurance and Packing/Post Room associate too! In the early days I always likened it to Fawlty Towers when I was explaining to my friends and family what I did each day.

“One of my earliest tasks that sticks in my memory was to copy 100s of floppy disks, providing a Budget update for the CII Financial Planning qualifications to all individuals that were studying. I cursed and swore at that disk copying machine more times than I care to mention, plus, I needed a wheelbarrow to get the packets to the post office for mailing! CDROMs were a blessing for me….

“Moving on to a more creative role in the business, Head of eLearning Production (and beyond), was a key step and allowed me to immerse myself in the world of eLearning. I learned all about instructional design, authoring software, development methods and project management.

“It also allowed me to focus on reviewing and recommending improvements to our Project Management processes, plus fully understanding the recipe for a great user experience. I’ve been hooked ever since, and although my role has changed over the years, there is always a place in my heart for interactive eLearning!

“Things have moved on since those early days; technology has advanced at pace, the world is changing faster and faster.

“We have seen Apple introduce amazing products that have changed our horizons and allowed our children to interact with tablets computers from an early age, social media has opened up a communication/network of friends and colleagues that our grandparents would not have thought possible, NASA discovered water on the moon, and AFC Bournemouth are in the Championship!

“Throughout these technology changes, Unicorn has managed to adapt our business strategy to support our client’s changing requirements. We have always preferred to describe ourselves as sitting just behind the curve in technological advancements, learning from the early adopters – mistakes and successes – and making sound, informed business decisions. The mobile explosion has certainly opened up some opportunities and presented us with some challenges but there is definitely a heightened level of excitement in the business about future possibilities.

“In 2010 Unicorn decided to raise our head above the parapet, introducing ourselves to the eLearning community after spending a long time keeping a low profile! This has been a successful decision; to date we have won a number of awards to recognise our eLearning solutions, 2011 eLearning Company of the year, 2012 Instructional Designer of the year, individual achievement awards for both Henry and Peter Phillips, phew, a lot in a short space of time!

“We have grown up and out, the company has grown consistently and profitably from fewer than 10 employees when I joined to over 70 now! As we have grown, we have increasingly needed to put in place more structure and professionalism in our HR processes, part of my new role as Chief Operating Office, has meant I can lead on this.

“Me? Well during that time I have moved four times, entered a character building marriage and subsequent quick divorce, (well, we all make mistakes!) had a beautiful daughter who is my main focus outside Unicorn, had six different cars, passed my CIPD Certificate in Learning and development to consolidate my knowledge, travelled extensively to some beautiful locations – business and pleasure – oh, and Vegas for the eLearning Guild DevLearn conferences!

“I’ve raised funds for a number of charities, namely, British Legion, Help for Heroes, Mind and McMillian Cancer Care. Finance for Non-Financial Managers is next on the agenda, improving and extending my finance knowledge. I’m a study bug and have to be continually learning new things!

“I have enjoyed every day at Unicorn so far, it is a pleasure to work with such talented and creative individuals that make up the Unicorn family and I’m proud to have been part of Unicorn’s history – long may it continue. It’s been a heck of a ride, with massive amounts of highs and very few lows, and if I am honest I have loved every minute of it ☺”

DevLearn….. a word from Jackie

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.

Here are a couple of reports from Jackie on the pick of her chosen sessions.

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.

He described the information flow as a river that once he thought he had to swim in,  but actually he can fish out the information that is useful to him (the flow is way too fast I think people would drown trying to keep up) and organise appropriately.

Useful information can be found at www.jaycross.com and you can follow him at #LRNCHAT on Twitter

The information overload theme continued into the keynote speech by Steve Rosenbaum, take a look at the following facts:

·         From the dawn of time until 2003 approximately 5 exabytes of information was created. I in today’s world this amount of information is created every 2 days.

·         In March 2010, 24 hours of video per minute were uploaded to YouTube, by November of 2010 this had increased to 35 hours, and March 2011 this was up to 48 hours.

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!

How do we organise the information to be useful? The requirement is to be a curator providing clarity of information to your audience, in an information ‘noisy’ world.

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!

Cammy is an experienced instructional designer who works for Kineo. The discussion centred around creating content that is emotionally engaging and arousing not CCBB!  These are some notes/thoughts about the session.

Content should have a strong visual identity. Give graphics a purpose, a reason for being, make them an emotional hook for the content, use them wisely, don’t be afraid to have a text screen. What do the experts say, research suggests that we should avoid adding irrelevant images and interactivity. Cognitive interest occurs when a learner is able to mentally construct a model that makes sense.

Who reads learning objectives, are they really necessary at the outset of a module, especially in a formal bulleted list, in fact it is suggested that they can be off putting and users rarely read/they click straight through. Try introducing the module and as it unfolds the learner understands the coverage and the information in context. Goal based scenarios, simulations, challenge the learner, populate individuals experience portfolio.

Remember seductive details are interesting but might be irrelevant, and there is little evidence to suggest that this improves the learning experience.

Adding audio can be deemed to be CCBB, if the course is boring to start with audio will only serve to make it more boring!

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 issue that aroused most interest came towards the end as Clive made a point close to my own heart. We should not forget, he said, that, like architects, we are professionals. We need the confidence to advise and guide our clients not just build what they want no matter how misguided.  It’s tough but sometimes we should just say no.

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.

Then home, with plenty of new ideas and some old ones refreshed. Thanks to the eLearning Guild for once again organising a top quality event.

Even more from DevLearn 2011

The keynote speaker on Thursday was Steve Rosenbaum – another excellent keynote session. It has been a really good line up this year.

Steve’s theme was that with the mind boggling exponential growth of information, and its universal availability in the Cloud, the challenge for eLearning is not to provide more information but less – to help people to find the right information at the right time.

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!

To make this digestible, we all need to become Curators. The world needs thoughtful filters, we need human intervention not algorithms (farewell Google Search), and we need ideas not data.

A few of the practical takeaways that I noted:

·         Choose your digital clothing – become an intelligent filter for a topic that is a genuine interest. Have a theme and a POV

·         Re-post only content that fits your voice and tone

·         Context is key – don’t just retweet, commentate

Here’s where to find out more about Steve’s thoughts and even buy his book. http://curationnation.org/

For the remainder of the day, my focus was on Mobile learning, so next stop was Tom Crawford’s session on Design for Mobile – the ups and downs of the small screen.  

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.

The best part of this session was an extensive list of Design tips for mobile content, too many to list here, but this link may help http://www.viznetwork.com/about.html

Here is an example Tom gave of platform sensitive design http://bostonglobe.com/  Try resizing your screen to iPad size then to iPhone size and watch the layout change – clever.
Final thought “A good UI without a good UX is meaningless – and vice versa”.

On then to a session by Phil Cowcill of Canadore College, North Bay, Ontario.

Phil demonstrated how to take a piece of learning developed in Flash (CS5.5) and publish it to mobile platforms.

His solution is to “take Flash out of the browser “, i.e. eliminate the need to have Flash installed in order to use the learning asset.

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.

There are a few administrative hurdles to jump such as needing a P12 certificate to publish in some formats but this was a fascinating and very practical session and very definitely one to take home and try out.

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!

DevLearn 2011 The Exhibitors

One of the most useful aspects of DevLearn is the Vendor Expo.

Here’s Jackie stabbing wildly at an LMS voodoo doll.

And here is a quick summary of the exhibitors who caught our attention.

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.

This year we saw the results – ZebraZapps – and it is an impressive visual authoring tool. Essentially it is a very friendly user interface that sits on top of Flash AS3 and allows a non-programmer to develop complex interactions using a “wire” metaphor to link object properties. The resulting learning objects can then be published to a web site or the cloud.

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.

Writing Assistanceare a new exhibitor this year. They provide an agency service for sourcing freelance instructional designers, and could be very useful to us as we look to grow our US presence while keeping our cost base flexible.

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.

Articulate – the  most high profile launch at this year’s DevLearn was unquestionably the new Articulate StoryLine. This looks to be a significant advance in functionality for the rapid learning tool. It includes a library of characters, each with a range of expressions, and an easy to use interface for building these into animated scenarios. Definitely  a useful advance and we will upgrade, but on balance for Unicorn iSpring remains the better product (and it is a third of the price).

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.

NeoSpeech Inc – another new exhibitor with  very impressive Text to Speech screen technology. Very realistic speech synthesis, multiple language options. Could be a useful accessibility tool within SkillsServe?

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.

DevLearn Day 2

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. rraymer@nsbionetwork.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. 

DevLearn 2011 My daily blog

I’m not generally one for conferences and conventions, but I make an exception each year for DevLearn.
If you want to get a close up feel for what is happening in the elearning world, the trends, the tools, the thought leaders, plus any number of creative ideas and tips, then this is the place to be.
As always the best learning comes from the other delegates –my table of four at this morning’s session are from Alaska, Toronto, New Zealand and the UK (that’s me).
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.
Today was a workshop day and I plumped for the “Designing Serious Games for Maximum Engagement” workshop. Very charismatic presenter, Alicia Sanchez, who describes herself as “Serious Games Czar” at the Defense Acquisition University.
The afternoon session was particularly good. We worked in small teams and were given about an hour to design a new learning game from scratch and to present our case to a group of experts.
Our team task was to design a solution for teaching information security to insurance industry staff. Remarkably, in that short timescale we were able to create a game “Inspector M and the Case of the House of Cards” from concept to illustrated storyboard. Even more remarkably our idea won first prize, and is eminently achievable on a limited budget. A great illustration of the
power of focused group creativity.
Last year’s DevLearn was in San Francisco. This year it’s in Las Vegas. Give me San Francisco every time. But it has given us a chance to visit the Grand Canyon, and a reminder of what that overused word “awesome” really means. Jaw dropping beauty, and an unforgettable helicopter ride.
Here’s Jackie (more photogenic than me) considering whether to leap. That far rim is 14 miles away!