Tag Archives: Content Development

APIs, Adaptive Learning & the Invisible LMS: Andy Wooler Interview

I was very lucky this week to catch up with Andy Wooler. Andy is the Academy technology Manager at Hitachi Data Systems and one of the most experienced people I know when it comes to learning management technology. I was keen to get Andy’s take on how learning technology is developing.

Andy is always looking outwards at new technologies and their potential application for learning. What I particularly like about Andy is that he cuts through the hype and has a good sense for what will really work inside large corporates. This is what he had to say about current trends.

Has the death of the LMS been exaggerated?

Despite predictions about its imminent demise the learning management system (LMS) continues to evolve and thrive.

The LMS will continue because it covers all the learning processes we need to manage, particularly in a regulated industry. However, the LMS will become less visible to learners.

The LMS functionality will sit behind the scenes and we will surface the functionality and data at the point of need.

In the old days we had a SCORM compliant LMS (the learning tracking standard developed originally by the US military) and we produced a lot of SCORM based content. These days learning blends have a rich range of content including video and a wide range of resources such as blogs, slides and social networks. You need to be clear what you need to track. There is an increasing body of content we don’t track in the LMS. We use a lot of video based content which we surface on platforms such as Jive where it doesn’t need to be tracked.

What does this mean for learning design?

I think it is a challenge for learning designers. How do you bring in collaborative elements and how do you adapt the learning. In my view the future is adaptive learning. For us this means producing less scorm based content and creating more learning in an adaptive learning tool.

Adaptive learning tools continually assess the skills and competencies of staff and then adapt learning delivery accordingly. I think this is key as it is about making learning and knowledge fit the individual learner. We are using adaptive technology from Area9 to assess how much the learner knows at any given time, and which adapts the learning accordingly. In my view the future of learning design is adaptive and personalised learning.

What will be the impact on tracking and reporting?

Tracking how many people have completed a course can mean very little. What we really want to know is the current competency and skills of our staff.

With our adaptive learning we are continually assessing staff competencies and skills. We use sophisticated assessments, for example we also ask on assessment how confident learners are of the answers they have provided. How sure are you of the answer you have given.

I think xAPI has a huge role to play. The LMS of the future needs a learning record store (LRS) and the ability to integrate data. Learning should be linked to an individual’s competency and skill.

I can see use cases such as for software engineers inserting a Tin Can statement into the executable file of the software they install which will then bring back data from their actual performance such as time taken errors logged etc. Thus using xAPI we may be able to track not simply learning but performance that can be mapped to their learning needs.

On data analysis there has been a lot of talk of big data but in reality it is not about big data but making best use of the data we have. To me it is important to get the data out of the LMS and analyze it in a data warehouse. We can then look at correlations with other data for example learning and sales data, can we see if learning increases sales. By combining data sets in data warehouse we can look for actionable insights to improve our performance.

So the future is APIs and an invisible LMS

Absolutely, I don’t want anyone to see the user interface for the LMS unless they absolutely have to. What we need to do in the future is pull content and data from the LMS using an API which allows us to surface it on different platforms at the point of need. For example, content could be launched from a deep link from a QR code on a piece of machinery. It gets accessed at the point of need.

The learner really doesn’t care if there is an LMS. We care as learning managers as we need to manage a range of processes and track the impact of learning. The key though is delivery of learning at the point of need, using APIs and single sign on. Thus we need to be able to surface content and data on other platforms as required.

Reproduced by kind permission of Steve Rayson.

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Product Review

A product review I hear you say? Andy hasn’t done one of those before! But in this occasion, I have seen something that I believe could have some great use in the L&D world.

Back in the 80′s, we all experimented in the delivery of Interactive Video or Laser Disks – you remember those? About the size of an LP (or vinyl as it’s now known!). The modern day CD is on the right:

Laser disk vs DVD disk

The difference between a laser disk and a DVD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now we have moved on to the “YouTube” era where video on demand is the norm, we have often lost the ability to be as interactive as we were back then. The tool I have recently seen changes all that and introduced an ability to create hot spots on moving video – unlike the interactivity of the past, this technique allows a moving object to have clickable hotspots.

The tool is called DAz and it’s not something you can buy but the service is available from the joint developers at http://www.outtakes.co.uk/. Here’s an example they have developed for London Underground. You will need to be using Chrome, Safari or IE9 & above for this one. The hotspots you are looking for in this clip are health and safety related – if, like me, you have no idea of the hazards of working on the Underground, simply click the “Visibility” button and they will appear to help you!

At the moment, this tool doesn’t have SCORM or xAPI support – but having spent some time with Outtakes, they are now talking to their development partners about adding this.

Once we are able to access the status of the interactivity in these films, then we will have something I think is quite exciting for the world of online learning. In addition to developing new learning content, this technique can also be applied to existing film assets we may have giving us an opportunity to extend their shelf life! Here’s another example, this time inside a warehouse:

One of the people involved in the development of this tool, Professor Martin Wright had this to add:
” I am excited about how Outtakes plan to use the DAz interactivity for video in learning and have been delighted to be involved in its development as the interactive use of video has been a career long interest of mine.” 

Outtakes has a highly skilled and experienced in-house production team who make great quality, innovative films for training, promotion and advertsing. They have produced safety films covering everything from hearing loss in the music industry, to safe driving, accident investigation to manual handling. Take a look at their showreel and contact them via www.outtakes.co.uk

UPDATE: Since writing this blog post, I have been able to introduce Outtakes to my good friends at Transition Associates and the end result is that DAz is also now SCORM compliant so these interactions can be scored (or not if the student doesn’t spot them!).

Check out their new promotional video:

Disclaimer: I have no financial interest in any company mentioned in this blog – I just think this is a superb product!

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