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Posts Tagged ‘simulations’

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

New Technologies Making MOOCs Even Better

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

Idea concept on black. Perpetual motion with light bulbsI’ve been writing about massive open online courses (MOOCs) fairly steadily for the past year and a half or so, and over that time, MOOCs have changed considerably from what they were when they first appeared on the scene. Largely, these changes have been due to more investment and research into the development of digital learning environments.

Early MOOCs were often nothing more than long video lectures with a few multiple choice questions at the end—if you read much MOOC literature, you will know that these early implementations were roundly criticized for their poor pedagogy and almost complete lack of meaningful learning experiences. And the critics were right. However, that is no longer what MOOCs look like. As more institutions have experimented with them, and more research has been done about how to improve online learning, new pedagogical approaches and technologies have come on the scene. In terms of quality and learning, today’s MOOCs rival and sometimes even eclipse what is found in many instructor-led courses.

This post examines a few of the innovative new technologies that are helping MOOCs evolve into powerful active, collaborative, and immersive learning experiences. (For a review of basic technology-enabled learning tools used in MOOCs, see here and here.)

Enhanced content delivery: LectureScape

Watching a long video lecture isn’t any more engaging than watching a long in-person lecture. There are certainly some advantages to video, for example, learners can pause, rewind, and return to the content as needed, even after the course is over. But MOOCs can do better. (more…)

How MOOCs Can Solve Common Training Problems

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On September 17, 2014 No Comments

Problems Solutions handwritten with white chalk on a blackboard.From the outside, corporate training appears to be something of a paradox. On one hand, it is becoming ever more necessary for companies to provide training, especially for recent college graduates: according to a Gallup survey, only 11% of business leaders believe that college graduates are adequately prepared to succeed in the workplace. Corporate training is also a huge factor in company success—a 2000 analysis by Laurie J. Bassie found that investing $1,500 per employee per year leads to 24% higher profit margins and a more than 200% increase in revenue per employee. On the other, research suggests that as much as 90% of what is learned during training is lost in a short period of time.

Given these data, it’s obvious that training is one of the key drivers for companies’ success. But the data also suggest that many organizations aren’t doing it as well as they could be, which means they are likely not achieving anywhere close to the level of success indicated in Bassie’s analysis.

I’ve written before about various ways massive open online courses (MOOCs) can improve upon traditional training, for example by better meeting the needs of today’s corporate learners and by making elearning more interesting, more interactive, and more relevant. This article addresses three common problems found in training and discusses how MOOCs provide solutions to these problems. (more…)

Gamification for Enterprises

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On July 15, 2013 No Comments

Forrester Research Gamification(http://www.forrester.com/Gamification+Level+Up+Your+Strategic+Approach/fulltext/-/E-RES95622) recently released a new study that highlights the fact that companies just don’t understand the concept of gamification well enough in order to make it work to their advantage. This helps to confirm the point that I have tried to make all along and that is… Companies and universities for the most part just don’t recognize the unique value proposition that gamification coupled with simulation technologies can bring to the organization to aid in training/teaching learners.

In the study, Forrester states that a company investing in gamification needs to know who their target audience is and what that audience finds as valuable. Also the organization must determine its business objectives and chart an action plan to reach them, and in addition use an “engagement loop to connect user motivations to those actions.” Past failures by some businesses have lead enterprises to question gamification applications even more so then they already were previously. The Forrester report also said, “It’s not gamification itself that fails, it is the poor application of gamification that does.” (more…)

Developing Skills through Gamification

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

Developing skills and solving problems in a simulated environmentWord Cloud "Gamification"

What is it about games that make it possible to feel like we can accomplish anything and be a master at it, how can this transfer over to real life? Games are compelling and can lead to behavioral manipulation without the player even knowing it. They have a way of draw users in and engaging them. That is why gamification elements transfer over to simulation training as a perfect fit for one another, kind of like yin and yang. The art of game design has been around for ages, although it may not have first been applied to the computer. But none the less a board game or the like can also draw players into it as well (it just might not be as immersive).

“Games enrich us with intrinsic rewards. They actively engage us in satisfying work that we have the chance to be successful at. They give us a highly structured way to spend time and build bonds with people we like. And if we play a game long enough, with a big enough network of players, we feel a part of something bigger than ourselves—part of an epic story, an important project, or a global community.” -Jane McGonigal, Reality is Broken

Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world TED Talk


Gamification and the Hype Cycle

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On April 3, 2013 No Comments

Taking an in-depth look at the Gartner Hype Cycle as it applies to Gamification and predictions for millennial trainingWord Cloud "Gamification"

As gamification moves from the early adoption stage to becoming more broadly accepted across all arenas it will prove to be a useful tool within training programs across a variety of industries. In order for gamification to be successful it can’t just rely on badges, leader boards and points. Rather, gamification mechanics need to have objectives in place towards collaboration and innovation.

Gartner (http://www.gartner.com/technology/research/gamification/) defines gamification in the following few paragraphs:

“Gamification is the use of game design and game mechanics to engage a target audience to change behaviors, learn new skills or engage in innovation. The target audience may be customers, employees or the general public, but first and foremost, they are people with needs and desires who will respond to stimuli. It is important to think of the people in these target audiences as “players” in gamified applications.

While game mechanics such as points and badges are the hallmarks of gamification, the real challenge is to design player-centric applications that focus on the motivations and rewards that truly engage players more fully. Game mechanics like points, badges and leader boards are simply the tools that implement the underlying engagement models.

Gamification describes the use of the same design techniques and game mechanics found in all games, but it applies them in non-game contexts including: customer engagement, employee performance, training and education, innovation management, personal development, sustainability and health. Virtually all areas of business could benefit from gamification as it can help to achieve three broad business objectives 1) to change behavior; 2) to develop skills; or 3) to enable innovation. While these objectives are very broad, more opportunities may emerge as the trend matures.” (more…)

Simulation Training Solutions and Learning Approaches to Combat Acute Skills Gap

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On March 6, 2013 No Comments

gselogoSYKESVILLE, Md., Mar 01, 2013 (BUSINESS WIRE) — GSE Systems, Inc. (nyse mkt:GVP) has published a new white paper titled “The Case for Simulation-Based Training in the Oil and Gas Industry, Upstream and Downstream”. The document examines the need for efficient and effective workforce development in the oil and gas industry worldwide to combat the acute shortage of skilled workers both upstream and downstream.

“Statistics show that U.S. universities are producing only about 20 percent of the engineering graduates they did 20 years ago,” said Jim Eberle, Chief Executive Officer of GSE Systems. “Thus, the petroleum industry needs to train its recruits better and faster on systems that are more complex than ever before. They also need to make sure that they retain those recruits over the long term. New innovations in simulation-based training will allow industry trainers to accomplish these goals in less time with lower costs.”


Using Simulations in Corporate Training

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On February 7, 2011 No Comments

In this series of articles, we will look at the use of simulations in effective training interventions. First, let’s find out why an organization would want to use simulations in its training program.

In the past, the mention of training simulations brought pictures of high-tech cockpit mock-ups and controlled burning buildings to mind. But in today’s environment, a training simulation can occur in a classroom or online with just about any line of professionals. We know that simulations in highly technical or dangerous situations are necessities, but why should we consider using simulations in various aspects of business training, such as strategy, operations, or even leadership? The answers are fairly simple, so in this series we will discuss simulations and how you can effectively implement them in your organizations. (more…)



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