DevLearn: What we learned and how we will change our courses

DevLearn Conference & Expo is one of the largest learning technology conferences in North America! This year’s theme was all about Sparking Creativity. As a member of the eLearning community, we are always working to remain abreast of the latest in terms of teaching and learning methodologies and changes in the technology landscape. The event is held yearly in Las Vegas, and this year there were more than 5,000 attendees. If you do anything online, definitely join the eLearning Guild and attend this conference. It’s one-of-a-kind and an absolutely invigorating experience for those of us who work in eLearning.

My specialty is the development of curriculum for courses and so I love to learn about instructional technologies that result in meaningful learning experiences where retention of learning is emphasized. A sampling of topics that were of interest to me included “Adapting traditional classroom design for ‘live’ and online instruction”, “Mastering story-boarding for elearning” and this year’s hot topic was how to use “virtual reality” or VR – now that was very cool – expensive, but amazing! I’m not exactly sure how we would use it in our courses, but as it relates to games, it’s really fun and I recommend that you check it out.

As a nurse, I was particularly interested in viewing a VR scenario for a patient who wasn’t breathing. I experienced a 360 degree view of a room where an intubation was being performed. The scenario was quite realistic and you definitely feel as though you’re in the room. The 360 degree view is so much more than a 3D movie, for example. I did attend one session designed to show that VR doesn’t have to be expensive. They demoed cardboard VR glasses and some plastic styles that can be bought in a toy store. VR will definitely be something to watch for in the future of learning technology. I’m sure the price will come down in time. If you want to see something fun, check out this new app called Bubbli where you can make your own 360 learning with dynamic spherical photos called bubbles.

It takes work to make good learning.

I attended a session by Patti Shank which shared how to make your courses “learnable.” The presenter stressed that “If you want to get to a high level of expertise in course writing, you will suffer.” It takes work to make good learning. The goal is to get learning into our long term memory where we can store it and where it’s retrievable. Makes sense, but getting it there is the key, and repetition (repetition) was stressed, revisiting the same learning over and over. Hey, isn’t that how we learned our times tables?!

“Readability” is also important.

If a learner can’t read something easily, they will just skip it. Writers should aim for readability levels of 60.0 to 70.0 using the Flesch reading-ease test, which is the 8th or 9th grade reading level. If you are interested in any of the science of learning, please visit Patti’s blog. I could go on and on about what I learned, but let me turn this over to Lesley to update you on some of the technology changes that we will be implementing in our courses.

Bring together multiple disciplines to solve global problems in creative ways.

Thanks Ann! One of my favorite sessions was about creativity and problem-solving which was presented by Tony DeRose, Research Group Lead at Pixar Animation Studios. His discussion highlighted the importance of bringing together multiple disciplines to foster curiosity, creativity, and innovation. Pixar is a great example of what can happen when you combine art with geometry, physics, computer science, and humanities. If you haven’t seen it yet, you’ll want to visit Pixar in a Box to learn more about the marriage of math + arts. It may help when you’re looking for an answer to why do I need to learn math? (A frequent question in my house already!)

What does this have to do with our work at Advantedge Education? Everything! Ann and I have completely different backgrounds, combining nursing with design and technology. Together, we create a learning experience that has immersive content (drawing on Ann’s rich clinical background) and support it with visual design and modern technology. When you have a multi-disciplinary approach, you tend to seek other resources when you can’t find a solution to a problem.

Making courses friendly across devices.

We’ve had an ongoing challenge at Advantedge Education to make our courses truly mobile friendly. It’s not as easy as you think. Historically, many elearning providers have boasted about their course compatibility across devices, but it wasn’t without losing significant parts of the learning experience. We’ve had to compromise and acknowledge that our current courses are best for those using a computer or tablet, and not so much a smart phone. Well this is about to change.

Over the next several months we will be rolling out a new responsive course player that will drastically improve the learning experience on tablets AND smart phones. It’s called mobile learning development. For our shorter courses (30 – 60 minutes long), you’ll find that they will be completely responsive across any device. Okay, admittedly, I’m probably more excited than anyone else, but we can’t wait to hear your feedback.

Improving access for learners who have a disability

We need to do better with improving the learning experience for those who use screen readers such as JAWS. Our current courses work with JAWS in Internet Explorer only, yeah, not ideal. At DevLearn, I attended a hands-on learning session (presented by Yukon Learning) to see how we can improve accessibility for learners who have a disability. So, I’m really excited that we will be able to support screen readers for learners using other browsers such as Chrome and Firefox, AND HTML5 when we roll out our new responsive course player. Yay!

We’ve shared a lot so we’ll leave you with this. Life is chaotic and work can be stressful, but don’t forget to stop and reflect every now and then. Look for those creative sparks that do exist all around you, and give them the opportunity to help you solve your next problem.