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Learnings from iDesignX 2016

Every year I make the effort to attend iDesignX in Sydney and every year I think how glad I am I went. This year was no exception (except for 20 weird minutes on meditation during the breakfast session but to be fair it was a 7am fill in for an absent speaker).

Here are the themes I found:
-Articulate Storyline is allowing people to do some really interesting learning modules and games much more easily.
-Illustrated pictures, cartoons and animations are much more common and very engaging – even with serious subjects
-Context is more important than content
-People are moving to apps for mobile learning and performance support and just letting completion tracking go
-Games are more common and their design is often much simpler, bringing them to a price that’s affordable
-Video is ever more popular – as long as its short
For the past two years, there has been much talk of gamification, and learning games but I had only seen one or two highly sophisticated and expensive examples. This year we saw that it has finally grounded in reality and people have found simpler ways to make games for good learning.

For example, Toby from TCI created an elearning game in Articulate Storyline designed to teach serviced office administrators how to sell their additional services to clients. In a simple illustration of an office, with rooms you can click on, dots appeared as if you were walking to each room, then an office scene appeared. In each room you had to identify the ‘clue’ of what work needed to be done for that client. After you amassed all these clues you were able to access the second level, where you had a scenario with each client, to select questions that would lead to the additional work. The design was engaging yet simple and would keep the price affordable. What stunned me about this module was that you were only given access to the learning ‘content’ if you got one of the scenario answers wrong. It turned traditional design upside down and I LOVED it.

Toby also shared he secrets to good scenario design and has made the powerpoint available here

Sydney Water shared their module on Records Management, where the learner had the challenge to allow water to get through a series of pipes to a new housing development, by clicking on flags along the route and passing Records challenges. If you got the challenge right, the character was shown climbing up a ladder, wrong and they fell off the pipes. The water theme was continued with a series of valves showing how you were doing. It was a super engaging way to handle a very important topic which could have been terribly boring.

Another Storyline module on language for mental health issues showed great thought and planning, including videos of people with mental health issues talking about how they felt, and then yet another challenge. It started with an illustrated comic book style situation of people walking in a park being concerned about a man muttering to himself. You were then asked to select words of what you thought of him – people picked homeless, schizophrenic, paranoid, dangerous etc. Then we had another comic, of him in hospital, then home with a friend talking about how he had run out of medication but he was ok and back to work tomorrow. Then we got the chance to go back and deselect the words that no longer applied – it was a thought provoking piece, as it was meant to be.

There were many other speakers who used mobile tools instead, Evolve/Adapt, native apps, HTML5 development etc. I think someone mentioned Adobe Captivate once but only in passing. What I found interesting was with that with these web apps they had let go of the need to track completion, and just used visit statistics. They were acknowledging that people needed small pieces of information at a particular time and that by the time they needed to know something, there would have been too great a time gap from traditional elearning. In one example learning reduced from 20 minutes to 90 seconds. The mlearning created by Easy Authoring in html5 was highly attractive, with small slightly transparent white blocks on photo backgrounds. I will always be grateful to Kam for his demonstration of what 100 words looks like on a mobile phone – it fills the screen and is overwhelming. The term “bite sized chunks” was repeatedly mentioned, but realistically these were only tiny nibbles – messages drilled down to only what was vital in 10-20 words.

Westpac were kind enough to share their failures with Yammer (few signed up and even fewer people repeatedly posted) and their new plan to reset for better success – automatic bulk signup, rewarding staff for posting, KPIs for managers, and champions in each department. Plus they also found that having all of their yammer team/change management staff respond to posts under a cartoon avatar called Sam got a great response. They also used Sam in elearning modules and to virtually announce prize winners in videos. Whenever Sam asked a question on Yammer, she always got a response. People actually called Sam by name when they asked questions as if she had become a real person.

Animations and short videos also featured highly this year, both within elearning/mlearning and by themselves. The super short cartoon style videos designed by Medibank were entertaining and highly memorable. Hardly any of us realised that there had been no audio voiceover, because the visual message and short text was so effective.

I learned a lot from iDesignX this year but it wasn’t about the tools that were used. What I learned was how effective illustrations can be, and that I need to be creating some options for that in my pricing. I realised I had to be more open to ‘bite-sized nuggets’ as they are very effective. It was also how I need to set up an expectation with my clients of what I can provide for them as a ‘learning expert’; that I need to share what we as learning experts already know - it’s not about knowing how to use the tool, but actually what the problem is that they are hoping the learning will solve, and then what the best way is to solve that.  That’s really the only best practice there is.

Jacinta Penn - 12:50:12 | 4 comments

  1. Katrine


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  2. 4rx


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  4. superiorpaper


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