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Archive for the ‘Simulations’ Category

The Building Blocks of Technology-Enabled Learning

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On April 16, 2015 No Comments

New Technology on Black-Golden Watch Face.So, you’ve decided to start using technology-enabled learning in your corporate training program. Now what?

Well, just like there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to all of today’s training challenges, there also isn’t just a single way to “do” technology-enabled learning. Your particular implementation depends on a variety of factors, including:

  • Whether you’re developing the training in-house or purchasing it from a third-party vendor
  • Whether you are using a fully online model or a blended learning model
  • The comfort of the instructors and learners with the technologies you will use
  • The devices learners will use to access the training
  • And much more

However, regardless of the exact details of your implementation, all technology-enabled learning courses have a common set of building blocks. Some of these, like learning objectives, are the same for any type of course, online or off. Others, like analytics and reporting, are really only available in digital environments. This post explores each of these building blocks, and in the next we’ll look at specific tools and technologies in each category.

Note that the building blocks here aren’t things like “bite-sized modules” and “discussion boards.” These are items I’ve covered in depth in other articles. Instead, these are the pieces that need to be in place for technology-enabled learning to be a success. Most of the discussion will focus on courses, but these components are equally important for more modular learning experiences.

Learning objectives

Learning objectives are the foundation of any training course, and technology-enabled learning is no exception. Having well-defined learning objectives will help you select the specific technologies to use. For example, if learners simply need to be aware of information (e.g., for compliance), then the best technology may just be a pdf. If learners need to be able to do something, then the best technology would be a simulation or other hands-on activity. And if learners need to interact then you’ll need collaboration technologies.

Technology-enabled learning isn’t about using technology just because. It’s about using the right technology to meet a training need.

Clearly defined expectations

Traditional training courses usually follow a set schedule, and in traditional elearning, learners proceed through the course in a set linear fashion. This is not necessarily true of technology-enabled learning environments like massive open online courses (MOOCs).

Because learners will be accessing the course asynchronously and based on their own needs, it’s important to set clearly defined expectations. For example, are all parts of the course mandatory or are some of them optional? Does the course need to be completed according to a particular schedule? Will there be any instances when all learners are required to be in the same virtual place or perform the same activity at the same time?

You will not be there in person to answer questions about expectations or explain how the and activities course will function. This means that it must be crystal clear from the get-go. Therefore, you should plan to devote more time to defining expectations and schedules for fully online courses than you do for face-to-face ones.


As with traditional courses, the core of technology-enabled learning is the content. The content is the basis of the knowledge and the skills learners need to master. For technology-enabled learning, there are two main components to consider: creating the content and delivering the content.

Content authoring tools

When people hear the term content authoring tool, they tend to think of e-learning authoring tools like Articulate Storyline and Captivate. This idea, however, is little too narrow. Loosely defined, a content authoring tool is any tool you use to create the content resources for your course.

Digital course content comes in a staggering variety of formats, including (but not limited to):

  • Videos
  • Screencasts
  • Podcasts
  • Presentations (PowerPoint, Prezi, etc.)
  • Website content
  • Blogs
  • Pdfs
  • Word documents
  • Wikis
  • Simulations
  • Games
  • Images
  • Infographics
  • Digital magazines
  • Elearning modules

Taken from this perspective, content authoring tools include both text editors and e-learning authoring tools, as well as everything else in between.

Content delivery tools

Once you’ve developed the content, you need to get it out to your learners. For the most part, this is still done using some kind of digital learning environment or learning management system (LMS). However, it doesn’t have to be. You could just as easily set up a course webpage with links to all of the content resources and activities. Your entire course could be on a YouTube channel or on iTunes. The main benefit of using an LMS is the ability to track learner progress and performance.

Whatever content delivery option you choose, keep this one thing in mind: mobile. And by that I don’t just mean mobile-friendly, but fully mobile-functional. Many LMS vendors say their product is mobile, when in reality it isn’t. Here are some common problems:

  • The LMS isn’t responsive. So while you can access the content on a mobile device, you have to scroll around awkwardly to read it.
  • The mobile functionality is limited. For example, you may be able to access the videos but not the discussion boards or the assessments.
  • It works on tablets, but not smartphones.

With the popularity of mobile learning growing rapidly, it’s important that your mobile course really is mobile.

Activities and assessments

What will learners do in your course? These should be tied to the learning objectives, and the expectations surrounding them should be clear.

Learning activities in face-to-face courses often involve breaking into small groups for discussions or working on projects. You can do these kinds of activities in technology-enabled learning courses as well, but you can also do a heck of a lot more. Here are nearly 50 ideas for online learning activities.

A few guidelines for creating activities and assessments:

  • Keep them short! Like 10 minutes short. The same goes for your learning content chunks.
  • Use real-world examples whenever possible.
  • Make sure they are learner-centered. This means they need to be directly relevant to learners.

Another aspect of activities and assessments is feedback. In technology-enabled learning environments, there are a several ways learners can get valuable feedback from both instructors and their fellow learners.

Interaction and collaboration

A widely touted advantage of instructor-led training (ILT) over digital learning is the ability for learners to interact and collaborate with instructors and with one another. The failure of many online courses to include interaction and collaboration doesn’t mean these things aren’t possible. In fact, the ability to interact and collaborate is greatly enhanced by technology because learners can communicate with one another from wherever they are, and even long after the course is over. In the next post, we will highlight several great collaboration technologies you can use in your digital courses.

Learner motivation and engagement

You might think that motivation is a strange thing to include on this list of building blocks, as it is an internal state of learners rather than something you can control, right? Not entirely.

There are many things you can do to increase learner motivation and engagement in technology-enabled learning environments. For example, gamification is a powerful way to use technology to increase learner motivation. You don’t even have to go all out. Even just adding a progress bar to individuals’ dashboards has been shown to increase engagement.


Especially when you are transferring to a digital learning environment for the very first time, your learners will need support. This may take the form of technical support or learning support, instructor support or peer-to-peer support. Likely, it will require a little bit of all of these things.

Analytics and reporting

This is one area where digital learning leaves ILT in its dust. Digital learning environments, like LMSs, provide a huge amount of data about learner behaviors, from what resources they access to how long they spend with each one of them. By analyzing this data, you can pinpoint when learners are most engaged, and when they are falling asleep. Don’t take this information for granted — use it to support your learners and improve your course for the next time.

There you have it, eight building blocks, or essential elements, of technology-enabled learning. You’ve no doubt noticed that they aren’t so different from the essential elements of traditional learning. The next post will review the newest and best technologies available for successfully implementing all of these elements in a digital course.

Copyright 2015 Bryant Nielson. All Rights Reserved.

Bryant Nielson – Managing Director of CapitalWave Inc.– Being a big believer in Technology Enabled Learning, Bryant seeks to create awareness, motivate adoption and engage organizations and people in the changing business of education. Bryant is a entrepreneur, trainer, and strategic training adviser for many organizations. Bryant’s business career has been based on his results-oriented style of empowering the individual.

Learn more about Bryant at LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/bryantnielson

Bryant Nielson - EzineArticles Expert Author

MOOCs Aren’t Interactive, So There’s No Real Learning Taking Place

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On February 5, 2015 No Comments

Interactive_table_at_Ideen_2020_exhibition_2013-04-16_09.27.08This is the fourth in a series of articles that tackle common objections to and arguments against using massive open online courses (MOOCs) for training. Read the previous article: MOOCs Treat All Learners the Same.

MOOCs aren’t interactive. They don’t provide opportunities for active learning or engagement. Learners just sit in front of a computer and watch video lectures (they probably aren’t even paying attention) and take multiple choice tests. There is no learner-learner interaction, no instructor-learner interaction, and only a minimal amount of learner-content interaction. This isn’t meaningful learning—one could hardly call it “learning” at all.

This would be a very convincing argument, if it were true.

In the previous post, we saw that the widely held perception of MOOCs as a one-size-fits-all solution is inaccurate. While some MOOCs do take a “cookie-cutter approach” (which isn’t always a bad thing—think compliance training), this is not a trait inherent to the courses themselves. The same idea applies to active learning and interactivity. (more…)

Strategies for Implementing Gamification in Your Training MOOCs

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On December 15, 2014 No Comments

Gamification on Highway Signpost.Massive open online courses (MOOCs) and gamification hit the corporate training world at roughly the same time. MOOCs started to make their way into the mainstream in 2012, and while the idea of gamification has been around for more than a century, and the value of games in learning has been recognized for several decades, it is only recent advances in technology that have made both MOOCs and gamification viable training options.

Gamification has been a growing trend in organizations over the past few years. Starting mainly as a way to motivate sales teams through competition, the idea of using game mechanics has moved into many areas of the business environment, including training. Big-named companies, such as Deloitte and IBM have successfully implemented gamification in their L&D programs, and more organizations will be giving it a try over the next few years. According to this elearning infographic:

  • By 2015, half of organizations’ innovation processes will use gamification for some aspects.
  • Also by 2015, gamification will be the primary method by which 40% of Global 1000 organizations seek to transform their business operations.


How Much Learning Really Occurs in MOOCs?

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On November 24, 2014 No Comments

touch- tablet in hands businessmenThis is a question I hear often, and only recently has research become available providing us with an answer. But before we get there, take a moment to ask yourself two questions: “How much learning really occurs in instructor-led training?” and “How much learning really occurs in elearning courses?” The reason I call your attention to these questions is that for many trainers in many organizations, the honest answer is “I don’t know.”

But you should know.

Whether learners are actually learning is important information for companies that are finding themselves increasingly required to provide more training, more frequently. Too often, however, we focus so squarely on training delivery that we fail to measure, or even notice, if anyone on the receiving end of that delivery is even awake, much less encoding any information.

The problem of forgetting

One of the main challenges for workplace education, what Art Kohn calls “the dirty secret of corporate training” is that learners forget, and they forget fast. Kohn cites research showing that learners forget 50% within an hour, 70% within 24 hours, and as much as 90% within one week.

Perhaps the single biggest cause of this extreme forgetting is the fact that traditional training doesn’t gibe particularly well with how people learn. Bottom Line Performance President Sharon Boller puts it well when she writes: “A significant portion of what organizations label as training fits [a common but ineffective model]: it’s delivered as a single ‘glop,’ and large volumes of it are delivered up at once with nothing repeated. The intent in these instances is efficiency, but the result is the opposite because people don’t remember well in these scenarios.” (more…)

The 3 Ms: MOOCs, Mobile, and Millennials

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On October 15, 2014 No Comments

Technology in the handsMOOCs, mobile, and Millennials—these three ideas often elicit some measure of discomfort in training and development departments, because while these three forces are greatly affecting businesses in general and workplace education in particular, they remain relatively poorly understood. This lack of understanding means that while Millennials are increasingly adopting a mobile mindset and seeing MOOCs as not only a viable method of training, but their preferred one, many companies are still slow about moving in these new directions. The result is a model of corporate training that is not well suited to its target audience.

Let’s look at some data highlighting the disconnect between corporate training and these various factors.

Here is what Millennials think about MOOCs:

  • In a Software Advice study earlier this year, almost three-quarters of 18 to 24 year-olds, and nearly as many 25 to 34 year-olds, said they would participate in a company training MOOC. The same study found that more than half of Millennials would be more likely to apply for and stay with a company that used MOOCs for training. (Learn more about the study.)
  • A recent study by QuestionPro found not only that respondents believed that MOOCs offer a high quality of education, but that 78% rated them as being a better experience than a traditional classroom. Millennials in particular are so positive about this learning format that almost 80% of 25 to 34 year-olds expect that in the future MOOCs will replace some parts of traditional education entirely.

Now let’s see what employers think about MOOCs: (more…)

MOOCs: Building Personal Learning Networks

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On July 8, 2013 No Comments

For the past year or so, massive open online courses (MOOCs) MOOChave been busy upending all kinds of assumptions about education: content is king, quality education is expensive, and instructor-led training is the gold standard, to name just a few. But some subtler shifts are also taking place. One major change that MOOCs have greatly contributed to is the gaining recognition of learning as a primarily social activity, where the networks created are just as important (if not more important) as the content learned. The traditional practice of an instructor standing in front of a class of daydreaming students has been tossed out the window in favor of a new picture of an instructor as a facilitator who assists students to teach and learn from others and themselves.

We live in a world where there is simply too much to learn – whether in a history class or a management training program, it has become nearly impossible for a person to absorb all there is to know. Because of this, education is moving from a model of knowledge transfer to a model of learning network development. MOOCs represent the intersection between these two models – knowledge can be transferred quickly and effectively to large numbers of people at the same time and spaces can be created for people to build their own learning networks. The implications of this shift for education are huge; the implications for corporate training and continuing and professional development are staggering. (more…)

Gamification of Problem Solving

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On June 20, 2013 No Comments

Gamification of Problem-Solving: It’s a relatively new term Highway Signpost "Gamification"and may be a little trendy, possibly overhyped, and tends to be misunderstood as a subject. Let me delve a little deeper into painting a picture of what it is able to do (and solve).  In essence gamification presents an innovative way to solve real-world problems in a simulated environment. We are seeing proven cases of success of it’s applications and it still has a lot of untapped potential and evolution to take place before making it full circle.

How can you solve problems through Gamification?

According to Karl Kapp, he states that: “It is one thing to teach someone how to solve a problem using gamification techniques; it is another to actually have people work on the problem itself. This is where gamification problem-solving projects like the U.S. military’s game platform for generating multiple ideas for defeating the Somali pirates, FoldIt, and Phylo come into play. Each of these gamified platforms has several similar components that can be employed when creating large scale gamification problem-solving efforts.(more…)

The History and Direction of Gamification

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On June 17, 2013 No Comments

A look back in the history books…Highway Signpost "Gamification"

When you stop to think about it we have been playing games in one form or another almost since time began. The meaning and application of games has changed dramatically over the years and although the concept of ‘game’ is not new, the term of ‘gamification’ is. Perhaps one of the first forms of gamification could be noted as a toy introduced through the infamous Cracker Jack box way back in 1912. Nothing really happened over the next 68 years, up until 1980. It was then that Richard Bartle co-created MUD1. This ‘game’ was a pioneer effort to introduce the first known massively multiplayer online game. This was the first time that people could experience a collaboration platform that was interactive (even though not interactive by today’s standards). It was MUD1 and others like it introduced way back when pc’s were more in the dinosaur age of evolution as compared to what they are today that helped to shape what gamification is and will be in the future.

It wasn’t until 2002 that another element of gamification came into play and that was in the form of ‘serious games’. Serious Games can best be summed up in stating that it’s a game, but one that is used for training/learning purposes through simulation, etc. It was this movement and the term coined as ‘Games for Change’ that began lying a path down for the real introduction of gamification. In 2007, Bunchball introduced the first ‘modern’ gamification platform. Since then a whole host of other companies have launched competing products revolving around a gamification-like platform and other systems. (more…)

Gamification Techniques Transferring Over into Real Life- Life could be like a video game.

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On June 10, 2013 No Comments

Let’s just admit now, that most of you reading this blog post Highway Signpost "Gamification"have enjoyed some play time behind a video game controller whether it be mastering Tetris, Doom or any other video game for that matter. Although it’s scary to learn that three billion hours a week (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-22508983) are spent on playing games (mainly as a pastime) it also drives home my point of stating that simulations coupled with gamification techniques can be an extremely powerful tool and one that resonates with a wide audience. Games are everywhere; games will lead the way both now and in the future.

It always seems as though the video game industry is introducing sequels to popular games rather than re-inventing the wheel and developing a new game, why not just add another one onto an already popular money-making video game series? Not to name names here, but: Battlefield 3, Uncharted 3 and Mass Effect 3 are just to name a few. And while I’m at it I might just mention Play Station 3. The lure of the video game is to draw the player in, interaction if you will. Not only does one have the opportunity to play against another player but there is also the aspect of the leader board. This leader board drives one to achieve better mastery of the game and reach higher levels. The whole idea around leader boards, badges, community collaboration, achievements and the list goes on and on… is that all of these ideas transfer over to real life. (more…)

Gamify Your MOOC

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On May 20, 2013 No Comments

Gamification and massive open online courses (MOOCs) Gamificationare two of the biggest trends in education. The power of these tools in creating accessible, engaging educational programs is already being realized in many educational and training sectors. For corporate trainers, the need to motivate employees to enhance their knowledge and skills can hardly be understated. According to Badgeville, a gamification platform, the dropout rate for organizational L&D programs can reach as high as 75 percent – that’s three-quarters of employees not completing their learning courses. Clearly, this trend needs to be reversed. Gamified corporate training programs can increase user engagement by more than 50 percent, and MOOCs have incredible potential to reduce the costs and increase the benefits associated with training. It is time for these two mammoth forces to come together.

So, what is the best way to go about gamifying a MOOC? Well, the answer is that there is no single answer to this question. Gamification involves using game elements and game design techniques in non-game situations, but there are many different ways to do this. Gamification is merely an additional, albeit very powerful, tool organizations can use to increase motivation and engagement in their training programs. The specific game elements and design techniques that are most effective will depend on the organization’s training goals and resources. Here we will review how some basic game elements can be applied in a MOOC context. (more…)



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