Thursday, December 13, 2012

Happy Holidays!

We thank all our customers, partners and friends for the opportunity to interact with
them during this past year. We hope you all had a good year!

Wish all of you a happy holiday season and best wishes for a great 2013!

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Mobile Learning

Attending lectures and submitting assignments from your phone was an unthinkable idea about 10 years ago. The launch of the iPhone in 2007 started a mobile revolution that changed this perception. Nowadays phones with quad core chips with processing power that put ordinary desktop PCs to shame are available in the market. This smartphone revolution, spearheaded by the Iphone from Apple (running on the IOS platform) and Galaxy series from Samsung (running the Android platform) have swept across the globe. All major industries like Social networking, banking etc have latched on to this opportunity to reach out to a wider audience and developed mobile compatible software.  The elearning industry is no exception. Mobile elearning or Mlearning as some prefer to call, seems to be the next big thing in Elearning industry along with the tincan api (which is the next generation of Scorm).

However, in spite of so much hype, mobile elearning have failed to take off as was initially expected. A main reason for this is the fact that the small mobile screens restricts the amount of data that can be displayed at once due to the small resolutions. While video courses, especially lectures can be displayed on a mobile screen to some extend without much loss of data, complicated courses with annotations, side notes, animations, tests etc are next to impossible to be displayed on a small screen without major overhaul to the course structure. Merely reducing the resolution of the pages just makes them incomprehensible and its very difficult to provide attention to details. So the only option left is to redesign the entire course from scratch. To cater to this need some course authoring software applications have started to provide options to publish courses for mobile devices. But it will take some time before complex courses that require a high level of user interaction can be launched and taken from a mobile device as comfortably as from a PC or a Mac.

Even as the smart phone revolution was transforming the world, Apple started another mobile revolution by launching the iPad in 2010.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Potential applications for online testing

With most of the companies around the globe adopting online training for their employees it is inevitable for them to seek methods/systems to measure the level of learning. Most of the online courses will have some sort of a test or assessment at the end, which the trainee will be asked to submit before they can get their certifications. Quizzes within courses are meant to teach and test the understanding of the training. In other words, these tests within courses are primarily from a training perspective.

But what about the cases where your primary objective is not to provide course material but to test the candidate’s knowledge over a wide variety of skills/subjects? The organization (or the examiner) needs to be able to set metrics and measure the test takers against these metrics. You have to prepare over a wide set of skills and then take an online exam which will behave differently for each candidate. The idea behind this diversity is the usage of question pools to create such exams. Most of these desktop tools will let you create question pools and the like but it will be much easier if you could create questions in the LMS itself and then set up online exams which can be later assigned to candidates.

Vitalect's Techniq Certifier is such an online exam system.  It provides you the ability to create question pools from which you can re-use a set of questions over and over again, spanned across a number of exams. So you won't have to re-create the questions every time when you are dealing with exams of similar nature.

Let us consider some real life examples. An organizations might wish to qualify their consultants before they send them out into the field to work with their customers. They will let the aspiring consultants take these tests in a proctored environment and see the results. If the candidates fail then they can be enabled to take the test again after a certain time period. Since the questions for the same exam comes from a pool of questions the candidates will be tested differently in the subsequent attempts.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Techniq Online University-Citrix Online Integration

During our product demonstrations we often get asked about our integration with Webex Training Center and Citrix Online's GoToTraining product. Customers and prospects wish to know what it is, why it is important and how it can help them. In this blog post we explore these issues further.In this blog we will discuss our Techniq Online Platform's integratation with Citrix Online's Gototraining product/service. Firstly, this integration with Citrix Online products like GoTo Training helps our clients manage all their training under one integrated platform. It serves as an integrated custom portal for all forms of training courses including self-paced courses, videos, podcasts, live in-person traditional classes and Citrix Online Training sessions. This portal acts as a single point of entry for all end-users – customers, partners, employees, administrators, course authors, managers etc.

Overview of the Flow

The Techniq Online University acts as the front-end to the end-user while communicating with Citrix Online products at the backend. This is completely transparent to the end-user. A registered user on our platform can sign up for a Citrix Online Training session and later join the session at the Event start time from the Techniq Online University or directly via the email they receive on registration. Administrators can schedule GoTo Training sessions from within our platform. In other words, they do not have to login to Citrix Gototraining. The Admin can also

Monday, October 15, 2012

eLearning Software as a Service (SaaS): Integration is key

The last decade has seen an explosion of Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions. The elearning industry has also been influenced by this paradigm shift. The elearning industry turned from being virtually non existent to a multi billion dollar industry catering to a wide variety of learning and training needs (both profit and non-profit) across the globe during the last couple of decades. This phenomenal growth was further helped by the introduction of a variety of new technologies. Video hosting and streaming services, online meetings and virtual classroom technologies, online hosting and collaborating on documents, presentations etc have transformed the elearning industry. All these can be used separately or in conjunction with other technologies to enhance the online learning experience. Even social networking has its fair share of contribution in enriching the learning experience of millions by providing ways to conduct group discussions, collecting feedback or even by conducting informative debates on the subject material.

Another interesting recent development is the rise of mobile computing. Even though the mobile platform has huge potential, many people still consider mobile elearning to be a "nice to have", but not mission critical to their training offering. A primary reason for this is that most mobile screens are not sufficiently large enough to properly enjoy the courses. Moreover until recently courses were created using flash. Such courses don't work on Apple's iPad or iPhone (though flash supported browsers are available). So most often courses will have to be custom made for the mobile platform or old courses will have to be converted to HTML 5. The success of a mobile solution depends essentially on the content provided, ease of use and its seamless integration with the online learning application. 

With such diverse training methods and solutions available in the market, choosing the right platform will be a nightmare for the uninitiated. The previous post talks at length about the factors that should be considered before picking the right delivery platform. In this post

Monday, October 01, 2012

Picking the delivery platform

Over a decade ago, the most used and perhaps the only form of training used to be traditional live in-person classroom trainings. In fact, in many parts of the world this is the only form of training available even to this day. In this method of training, the instructor and the students have to be physically present in the class while the training is delivered. Even though classroom training is still the most predominant form of training today, time and resource constraints always restrict the scope of training. The planning and scheduling involved just makes this so much more cumbersome. 

The last decade has seen an explosion of a variety of other delivery mechanisms. With the advent of the internet era and recent technological advances, it is now possible to deliver training using a wide range of delivery mechanisms. One of the most obvious developments is the boom of virtual online training technologies. In this type of training, the Instructor and students are remotely located and the training is delivered live through the internet. These sessions can even be recorded and can be used for future references or delivered to a wider audience. It is far easier and cheaper to do this than professionally record a training session delivered in a live classroom.

Another common trend with the coming of the Internet is the creation and delivery of self paced courses. These are courses created using desktop tools like power point slides with audio and may contain animations, quizzes etc. Dedicated course authoring tools are also used to create self paced courses. Once these courses are created, they are hosted online and the end users visit the site and sign up for these courses. Self paced courses may contain a high level of user interaction like filling out forms, attending quizzes etc.Self paced trainings have the added advantage that the learner can control the pace of the training which helps in better understanding of the course material.

With increasing bandwidths and faster networks, videos have become a popular medium for delivering training. Video recordings are made available online through Youtube and other video streaming services. Videos can be a recorded training, lecture, webinar etc. Pod casts are also used for delivering training.

Lets take a look at some specific applications of online training based on our personal experience of working with customers. Consider a training manager at a restaurant chain.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Identifying your target audience

The training process within an organization begins with determining the purpose of training (which we covered in an earlier post). Just as important is determining the target audience. To maximize the results of the training program, it is essential to identify the target audience and tailor the training delivery accordingly. When it comes to the target audience there are three key aspects that need to be considered namely: the type or classification of the target audience, the expertise level of the audience and lastly the complexity of the subject matter that the target audience needs to be trained on.

First, let us consider the type or classification of the audience. For example, employees, customers and partners could be a possible classification of the target audience. Employees and partners might need different kinds of training even if the subject matter was the same. Similarly, the training material developed for partners may not be suitable for customers.  

Monday, June 18, 2012

Determining the purpose of training

Like in the case of any other business, the training business within an organization begins with determining the very purpose of offering training. This might seem obvious but I find very often that Training Managers in the business haven’t exactly asked themselves or their management these fundamental questions. Why are we offering training? A clear answer to this question is often the starting point for the Training Manager to think through, plan, prioritize and most importantly seek the required funding from upper management. 

Most CEOs pay plenty of lip-service to training but don’t back up their training managers with the required resources. The Training managers for their part often fail to ask the right questions of their upper management when it comes to making the case for the required resources and funds to build a training business how so ever small it might be. If I got a few pennies each time I heard a training manager say “I don’t have those kinds of funds” I will be writing this piece from my permanent beach house in a far away exotic island. In this article I hope to provide some ammunition or at least some food for thought for Training managers especially those who think that they don’t have the funds but still entertain great dreams of building a successful training offering.

At a high-level, training offered by organizations can be for direct, easily measurable benefits for the organization. For example, it can be for the purpose of generating revenue. i.e., it is a profit-motive. In such cases, it’s often a case of calculating the ROI. How much does it cost to deliver training both in terms of costs for technology, the time of the course developers, instructors etc. How much revenue can I generate? If the case for an acceptable ROI can be made, then the next question boils down to how quickly can I scale this business? Are my costs going to increase significantly in order to scale the business or does my business scale with incremental cost increases?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

iPad in the Classroom

There has been plenty of talk about iPads being used as a tool for education in the classroom. Personally, I am still in two minds. A part of me wishes to embrace the latest and greatest technologies for kids. On the other hand, I struggle with the distractions that kids are exposed to in this age of social networking. 

Some schools have chosen to act on it and pilot some programs using iPads. 

"For the past two years, a pilot program at San Jose's Archbishop Mitty High School has put Apple's popular iPad tablets in the hands of 250 students in 14 classes. Next fall the school will rent an iPad for all 1,680 students and 104 teachers, putting Mitty at the vanguard of a quickening trend toward digitalized education." Check out the full report. For a video click here.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Technology in Schools

The NY Times had an interesting article today about the use of technology and how its transforming education at the Mooresville school in North Carolina. 

“This is not about the technology,” Mark Edwards, superintendent of Mooresville Graded School District, would tell the visitors later over lunch. “It’s not about the box. It’s about changing the culture of instruction — preparing students for their future, not our past.”

Click here to read the report.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Need for collaboration in undergraduate education

Lawrence Summers raises some interesting points in this piece in the NY Times about the need for changes in undergraduate education with greater focus on collaboration.

p.s: He says that English will take over and its not worth learning another language. I completely disagree with this. Check out this interview with a cognitive neuro-scientist which talks about how ones brain is wired differently (advantageously) when you learn multiple languages. Besides, knowing another language helps you connect so much better with people and their cultures.