m-learning on the iPad 3

Drafted at: Costa Coffee, Farringdon

Last Thursday (7th March 2012) saw the launch of the eagerly awaited iPad 3. As usual with a new Apple device the blogosphere has been full of speculation about what new features will be included. Speculation it has to be because Apple’s approach to marketing is to build hype as a new product launch approaches. If you are interested there was an excellent article in the May 2012 edition of PC Pro comparing Apple’s and Microsoft’s vastly differing approaches regarding new product launches – and guess what? Microsoft comes out as the good guy – it shares a lot of stuff with its developer community prior to key launches.

So what does the iPad 3 bring to the tablet party? Well not that much surprisingly. The headline feature is the ‘invisible pixel’ Retina display – imagine 4 iPad 2 screens tiled together and you begin to get a feel for how sexy this is going to be (I haven’t actually seen an iPad3 at this point but I’m already salivating).

iPad Screen Resolutions

iPad Screen Resolutions Compared (same 9.7 inch screen diagonal)

Apart from the sexy display we get 4G network access (well we will when we get a 4G network in the UK), a faster chip and a better camera and video capability. The battery also has a higher capacity (70% higher) but this doesn’t deliver any extra usable life which remains around the 10 hour mark. Sadly all this loveliness has resulted in extra thickness and extra weight. Think something between an iPad 1 and iPad 2. This doesn’t bother me being an iPad 1 owner but all those celebs are going to whinge about the extra room it will take up in their Gucci handbags.

So what will this new form factor mean for m-learning and e-learning? Well as a learning designer I love the idea of the extra pixel real estate but in practice these pixels aren’t that usable. Why? Because the pixel density is so high – much of the benefit ends up simply in improving the interface resolution. In other words smoother fonts and more curvy buttons. Most conventional e-learning content is designed to display at 1024×768 max. Some content scales – Articulate can publish so that it scales but this degrades quality. Of course since the iPad 3 doesn’t support Flash this is a hypothetical issue anyway. The extra pixels will improve video and will also benefit LMS platforms which can make use of the extra screen real estate for their interfaces.

e-learning on the iPad 3

A 'standard' resolution e-learning module running on an iPad 3

The iPad 3 is available in the UK on March 16th. Anybody want to buy my old iPad 1? Or maybe I should wait for a sexy new Windows 8 tablet?

Learning Technologies 2012 Show Review

Learning Technologies 2012

I’m always so late with my post event blogs, but then they say that you should always leave some distance between the experience and your reflection on it. This one is especially late because my website was hacked via some rogue WordPress plug-ins.

I have been attending the Learning Technologies Show (I’m not describing the conference here) almost since it started back in 1999. In the early days it was dominated by learning platforms and systems – primarily LMS’ but also KM and Talent Management systems. Since then it has re-balanced somewhat in favour of content, and these days even the technologies are so much more accessible (and affordable). In particular, the rise of DIY authoring tools and learner friendly LMS’ combined with the focus on learning content has resulted in an event that is as much about learning (or at least learning content) as it is about technology.

I spent two days at the show with a part of each day on the WillowDNA stand. I managed to see some of the free seminars on the floor of the show but didn’t get the chance to participate in the conference. Last year there was some criticism that the conference and the show were out of step but then this is a problem with all conference/show combinations. Emergent ideas don’t productise very well – there needs to be healthy signs of an emerging market before savvy entrepreneurs will risk their cash.

Here are some of my reflections of the show.

e-Learning Content

All the key bespoke content developers were there including Kineo, Epic, Brightwave, Line, Saffron and IMC. Sponge were also there with a refreshed stand and the same yummy sponge cakes. A new player on the content development front was Purple Media – the stand was modelled on the cabin of an airliner – it looked good but suffered a little from putting form before function (just like their painfully slow Flash driven website – which degrades ungracefully on an iPad). Information Transfer had the most elegant stand complete with tulips and a sort of fung-shui feel in the midst of the chaos going on all around.

Off the shelf vendors included SkillSoft and Jenison. SkillSoft were a little cagey on whether their massive back catalogue would work successfully on mobile devices but Jenison’s categorisation of their content into Shapers, Express, Pathways etc. was a useful attempt to direct buyers to content that would be appropriate for different learning contexts and form factors (see my recent article on m-learning).

LMS’ and Platforms

On the LMS front there was a return for the two old boys – Saba and SumTotal. Certpoint were there as were Upside, NetDimensions, Kallidus and Coloni. Most encouragingly there were a variety of flavours of Moodle on show from Kineo, Epic, Webanywhere, Aardpress and Traineasy. I have always liked Moodle for its trainer centric approach so it’s great to see it finally coming of age in the non-education sector. Willow’s Pathway product is actually a sort of ‘Moodle lite’ aimed at the non-education market. So far it’s been really popular with developers of continuous professional development programmes (CPD)

Authoring Tools

Don Freda demonstrates Articulate Storyline

Don Freda demonstrates Articulate Storyline

As far as tools go the usual favourites were there including Adobe, Lectora, Seminar, Zenler, Luminosity and this year Articulate had their own stand manned by Don Freda and Gabe Anderson. They were demonstrating Storyline which as expected was creating a real buzz. They were handing out a Storyline brochure which includes a URL to download a FREE 30 day trial but also when I tried it you only get to register your interest. I’m guessing that Storyline will be available very soon though. The update to Studio is also in the pipeline but I got the impression that we won’t see that until Q4 2012. Kaplan ran mini-classroom sessions taking people through STT Trainer and Content Point (Atlantic Link) but these didn’t seem particularly busy. I just sense that now Mike Alcock has left the business Atlantic Link is going nowhere quickly.

I did a quick demo of Zenler with Rakesh Vallil. Zenler is a really good alternative to Articulate if you have limited budgets. I’m going to evaluate the latest version soon and write an accompanying blog post.

Mobile Learning

Of course mobile learning was high on lots of people’s agendas with mobile authoring solutions from a wide range of vendors but the solution that most impressed me was Epic’s GoMo. This authoring tool takes a straightforward approach to authoring for mobile devices. Articulate’s Storyline is also going to be able to publish content to mobile devices but it will do so on the iOS platform via the special Articulate app. I am on the Storyline beta programme but we have yet to see the ‘publish to HTML5′ option in the beta release. It’s not clear yet whether all the functionality that is available via Flash (Articulate’s standard publishing format) will be available on iOS and whether if publishing for a Flash enabled tablet whether Flash will still be recommended over HTML5.

Video for Learning

The rise of video as a ‘learning channel’ was also apparent at Learning Technologies with the biggest splash made by Fusion with their impressive mini-theatre focussing on 70/20/10 and informal learning through the medium of video. Fusion is the brainchild of ex Fuel CEO Steve Dineen and their ‘informal learning’ platform offers a refreshing change to the standard SCORM centric LMS.

Live Online Learning

Redtray are a custom content developer but their stand this year was majoring on CloudRooms – their own virtual classroom product. Clearly Redtray are confident that 2012 is going to the year that live online learning takes off!

Social Learning

There was some talk of this new ‘paradigm’ in the show but little evidence that any vendor had really developed anything approaching a full social learning solution. I guess that the interpretation of social learning is still a little vague in many people’s eyes so it’s difficult to pin down what features a social learning platform might provide. At LT2012 Fusion were probably closest to the mark with their Fuse product and I’m keen to investigate this, and the whole concept of social learning, more closely in 2012.

Fusion Universal is the first company to design a performance and support solution that addresses the whole 100% of learning. Up until now, nearly all learning suppliers have focused on only one component of the 70/20/10 principle – usually the 10% formal course part. www.fusion-universal.com

Of course the proponents of social and informal learning approaches will hate the idea that the concept could be ‘productised’ along the lines of a traditional LMS or KM type system but there is definitely a gap for a ‘learning sharing’ platform that really combines the best of formal and informal learning approaches.

Follow-up articles planned:

Review of Epic’s GoMo m-learning authoring tool

Evaluation of Zenler authoring software

Social Learning Unconfused


Twitter stats for #LT12uk

Learning Technologies 2012 Show Video Tour

The 'e' in e-learning gets a makeover

Plymouth Enhanced Learning Conference


There has been much discussion in the twitterverse recently over whether we still need the ‘e’ in e-learning – what with all the new stuff coming along such as:

  • m-learning (e-learning on a mobile device)
  • social learning (self organising e-learning powered by social media tools)
  • live online learning (virtual e-learning classrooms)

I still use the term e-learning because it’s well known and reasonably well understood – though if you ask anyone at Learning Technologies next week you will get some quite different definitions. Personally I prefer the term online learning since it seems more inclusive of all that new stuff listed above.

However the primary aim of this short post is to highlight a new use of the ‘e’ in e-learning; enhanced learning. Where did I find this new usage? Pretty close to home actually – in Plymouth in Devon. It comes from the title of a conference on e-learning which has been run each year by Steve Wheeler (@timbuckteeth) and his team a the University of Plymouth. This year though it has been re-branded as ‘The Plymouth Enhanced Learning Conference‘. I like this new usage – what about you? Should we re-invent the ‘e’ or just lose it altogether?

Learning Technologies 2012

Learning Technologies 2012If you are a learning and development professional interested in innovative approaches to learning then it’s definitely worth trying to get to this year’s Learning Technologies Show at London’s Olympia on Wednesday 25th and Thursday 26th January.

This year I will be assisting on the WillowDNA stand (Stand 124), but I will also be out and about catching up on the latest tools and technologies. This year I’m expecting a lot of the focus to be on m-learning and also social/informal learning platforms.

Lisa Minogue-White from WillowDNA will be running a FREE seminar describing how we developed a range of online CPD programmes based on learning paths for the Institute for Practitioners in Advertising (IPA). It’s on Thursday at 13.15 in Seminar Theatre 5.

In fact this year there are three learning events running over the same two days at Olympia:

It’s an un-missable opportunity to get up to speed on a whole range of new developments and approaches in L&D. See you there!

BETT 2012: A Learning Technologist's Viewpoint

BETT 2012I normally try and get along to the BETT (British Educational Training and Technology) Show at London’s Olympia. I made it in 2011 but this year other commitments have got in the way.

Of course BETT is a show aimed at the education market so as a learning technologist and designer working in the commercial sector I’m not part of the core audience but aren’t learning technologies pretty much the same whatever the application? Well actually no, and once you’ve spent a couple of hours wandering around BETT you will see why.

The vast majority of learning technologies at BETT are designed for use within the classroom. Interactive whiteboards, classroom response systems, projectors, even special trolleys that contain banks of iPads or laptops for use in class. Educational learning technologies are all about keeping the power in the classroom. Last year I even struggled to find a Moodle vendor even though this is a massively popular platform in colleges and universities. Outside of education learning technologies are all about taking learning out of the classroom. Why is there such a disconnect? In my view it’s related to the two types of business model. Mainstream education’s business model is based on ‘bums on seats’. Schools and colleges get paid for each student they entice through their doors – there is no model to educate or partly educate online. In the commercial sector however the online learning business model works pretty well – reducing cost and providing flexibility for learners.

Things are changing however – colleges and universities are testing the water with online access to learning (proper learning technologies ;-) ). Open Courseware is now available from a number of leading educational institutions such as MIT in the US and The Open University in the UK. Of course Open Courseware is literally the ‘courseware’ which can only be a shadow of the full interactive learning experience (imagine PowerPoint without the presenter and audience). MIT though has recently announced that some of its courses will have free open access – not only to the courseware but also to the tutors, assignments, tests etc.

These are positive moves but the education business model is still rooted in the ‘bums on seats’ model. It always amazes me how one’s business model trumps almost anything else. Even though the research tells us that classroom model is outdated is so many ways we find it hard to change in case we cannibalise our core income stream.

Footnote – Next year BETT moves to Excel – this was a move that the CIPD HRD Show made a few years back and it resulted in poor attendances. As I’m not working in the education space I think it’s unlikely that I will make the trip out to Excel which is a shame because I always enjoyed the very different slant they had on learning technologies.



Converting Classroom to Online

This is the online version of the Pecha Kucha presentation (20 slides of 20 seconds each) that I gave at the e-Learning Network (ELN) event in London on 21 October 2011. I’ll be at the next ELN event in London later this week (Friday 9th December) where the subject will be; “Writing great copy, storyboards, and scenarios for e-learning”. It will also be the grand final of the 2011 Pecha Kucha competition. Hope you can make it!

Like Minds 2011

A couple of weeks ago I spent a very enjoyable day at the LikeMinds Conference in Exeter. What is LikeMinds? Well I’m not completely clear to be honest. I attended because it was local, because some of my inspirational network locally were going and because Molly Flatt was speaking. Molly Flat – who is she? Well I came across Molly when I discovered that I had missed the event last year and while trawling the post conference stuff I came across either her talk or maybe a blog post ( I don’t remember so well that far back). But through that I discovered her blog and her wonderful writing. Molly also writes for the Guardian.

Molly is a Word of Mouth Marketer (WOM) and works part time with 1000heads. Deep down though she is a journalist and aspiring author. She talked at the opening plenary session and I expected her to champion the ‘conversations’ that happen though the raft of social media platforms, and specifically Twiter, but she talked instead about the innovation of the ‘book’ and why sometimes you just have to let the dust settle before you write your thoughts and ideas down. She introduced us to a magazine called ‘Delayed Gratification‘ and celebrated the idea of ‘slow journalism’. Thank you Molly for that reflective but insightful session. Slowness is something to be cherished is our increasingly fast paced world. This blog post is an example of that – it was drafted on the train on the way home but took weeks to make it onto the big wide web thingy.

To continue on this slow theme I am currently reading ‘The Discovery of Slowness’ by Sten Nadolny.

“The Discovery of Slowness is a novel by Sten Nadolny, written under a double conceit: first, as a novelization of the life of British Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin, and second as a hymn of praise to “slowness,” a quality which Nadolny’s fictional Franklin possesses in abundance.” Wikipedia

This ‘slowness’ thing is catching on in lots of disciplines (slow food, slow journalism, slow design and even slow cities) primarily as a response to the way in which most things in life are speeding up. I’m interested in slow learning but I don’t yet know what that is – apart from being diametrically opposed to fast learning which is what most of my clients seem to want these days.

What else occurred at Like Minds? Glenn Le Santo shared some anecdotes and stories on the death of the journalist’s business model. Seems like lots of business models are under threat these days. Just ask the Greeks or the Italians. We ended the plenary session with a debate around the proposition ‘Are all Companies now Media Companies?’ The general consensus is that companies are having to be much more hands on when it comes to managing the information that they create and the conversations that they have with their customers. Glenn wasn’t impressed with the idea that you can sell something and talk about it all at the same time but that’s the way the smart companies are going. If you create and develop the conversation you can shape the behaviour of your customers in ways that simply aren’t possible using traditional media levers.

Following a nice lunch hosted by James Whatley of 1000Heads I attended an ‘immersive’ on Online Video delivered by the dynamic duo of Stephen and Roger from Watershed PR. Now being an e-learning guy I have been increasingly interested in using video as an integral part of an online learning experience but making a video is much harder than it looks. Just check out the number of people (and budget) it takes to make a Hollywood movie and you get the picture (sic). The dynamic duo took us on a high speed tour of some of the things you need to think about when you want to make a video to promote your business. Visual storytelling featured strongly but also simple tips on scene setting and drawing viewers into the action. I can’t watch my local TV news reports now without visualising the storyboard. How sad is that?

I expected some innovation in the format of the conference but in practice it followed the same old conference formula with a plenary followed by some break out sessions (called ‘Immersives’) with a final plenary at the end. We did get to lunch at various locations around the lovely city of Exeter with the speakers which was a nice touch. A more inspirational format might be more appropriate for an event which is supposed to tap into the zeitgeist. Many years ago when I was in the Technical Writing business I attended a series of innovative but brilliant conferences in Europe. Called the FORUM Conferences they relied on a lot of interaction between presenters and delegates. They used ‘idea markets’, ‘immersives’ and championed the ‘rule of two feet’. It sounds quite chaotic I know but the quality of the conversations was amazing and the whole thing worked in a wonderfully human and organic way.

Idea Markets will again be a cornerstone of the conference. Developed 30 years ago by Ulf Anderssen and Lars Forslund in Sweden, INTECOM’s Ideas Markets have become recognized as the ideal way to present and exchange information. Rather than have delegates sitting in docile rows listening to a speaker deliver information in a one-way setting, in an Idea Market everyone participates in an interactive exchange of ideas. It’s exhilarating and refreshing!

Finally LikeMinds is a social media savvy organisation so it wasn’t unexpected that Tweeting would be a feature of the event. Thankfully though the ‘backchannel’ didn’t feature too heavily and we were spared a Twitter wall.

I never did get to download RokkMedia’s custom Like/Dislike app and I don’t know how well it was used during the event – with no reliable WiFi connectivity wasn’t brilliant but sometimes a little disconnectedness makes life more pleasureable.

Is this the last slow word on the Like Minds 2011 conference? Maybe, maybe not.

DevLearn 2011

las vegas dev learn 11I’ve always wanted to make it to DevLearn – the US ‘future of learning’ conference and show. This year it took place in Sin City (Las Vegas) which is a little too far for us Europeans to go unless we are are on some corporate sponsored jolly. My colleague Kate Pasterfield at Sponge however combined a trip to her US relatives with a visit to conference – will be keen to hear what she thought of the event when she gets back. In the meantime here is a nice summary of the topics covered on the Twitter backchannel from the conference plus the ‘curated’ backchannel page from the DevLear11 web site. Not quite the same as actually being in Sin City but useful nonetheless.

DevLearn11 Backchannel Summary Page

Twitter Backchannel Summary from DevLearn11

e-Learning in Africa

Each year I receive the promotional material for the e-Learning Africa Conference. In 2012 it is being hosted in Benin. Initially I thought that the developing world would be playing catch-up with new technologies like e-learning but then I remembered my trip to Tanzania in 2001 to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

In the villages around the base of the mountain there were frequent wooden shacks selling a very limited range of products and the three brands that were the most widespread were Coca Cola, Fanta and Vodafone. I realised then that large parts of Africa had skipped a generation of communications technology – the infrastructure for landline telephones had never made it to many parts of the countryside so when mobile phones became cheap enough the demand for them in Africa was enormous. For the first time people in remote villages could make calls on their own phones.

And it appears that the same is true of the ‘learning infrastructure’ – the massive demand for learning combined with the geography and the need to keep costs low has meant that e-learning has a vital role to play in developing the skills and capabilities of poorer people across Africa.

It’s good to see a new technology being used in such a positive way. Some day I will get to the conference myself and experience e-learning African style.

e-Learning Africa Web Site

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