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Archive for May, 2012

Too Busy to Read Our Series on How to Set Up a Learning Management System? Attend our Webinar Instead

Our series, “A Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up a Learning Management System,” is nearing completion. For those of you who’d prefer to get a condensed overview of the information in a live virtual session, we’ll be presenting a one-hour Webinar on the topic:

A Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up Your Learning Management System
Wednesday, June 20, 2012, 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM MDT (GMT-6)

Whether you’re acquiring your first learning management system or replacing an existing system, this session will present a structured approach to configuring your LMS that will make managing your learning programs a breeze.

Details and registration form are located here.

Register Now

A Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up Your Learning Management System (Part 7)

May 29, 2012 4 comments

By the time you complete this step in the process, you’ll be very close to making your new learning management system available to learners. So far in this series: 

STEP 7: Create Curricula/Learning Paths

If you’re only making individual courses available to learners, then you’ll be able to skip this step altogether. If, on the other hand, you plan to make curricula/learning paths available, you’ll need to create those course groupings.

Once again, the course inventory audit document you created in Step 3: Establish Who Needs What Contentwill make this step much easier. Simply looking down a user group column will identify the content each group requires. If it makes sense to you to bundle those courses into a curriculum, go ahead and do so.

In bundling courses into a curriculum/learning path, you’ll need to decide:

  • Do the courses need to be completed in a specific order
  • Do courses issue individual certificates or does the learner receive a certificate for completing a curriculum
  • Does the learner need to complete all the courses or only some courses in the curriculum

TIP:

If you have high-priority courses many learners will need to take, consider investing the time and effort into presenting this content in different formats. You could, for example, present the material through:

  • A self-paced online course
  • A virtual classroom session
  • A face-to-face session in a physical classroom

If your LMS supports course equivalency and the option to complete some, but not all the courses in a curriculum, your learners will appreciate the ability to take courses in the formats they prefer.

In the example below, the learner must take the course titled “Welcome” but can choose between a self-paced or a Webinar-based version of the course called “Safe Handling and Transportation.”


What’s the Kardashian Rating of Your Learning Content?

May 25, 2012 6 comments

A few months ago, I wrote a blog post titled “`No Pain, No Gain’ Belongs in the Gym, Not in Learning and Development Departments.” This has become one of our most popular posts.  A significant number of visits to that article have been referred to by search engines. Apparently, if you Google “no pain no gain gym,” this article appears high up in the rankings, in the coveted number five spot.

To all the weightlifters and strength trainers who have been inadvertently directed to this site and found themselves reading about learning management technology: there was never an intent to deceive you and waste your valuable workout time.

To all the gyms in the world, Blatant Media is not your competitor. Really, we aren’t. We’re a software company.

Now that that’s cleared up, let’s move on to today’s post on the topic of learner engagement.

Kim Kardashian, inspiration for a new unit of attention measurement. Attribution : © Glenn Francis, http://www.PacificProDigital.com

Most of the information related to learner engagement I’ve read in my 25+ years as a learning professional has focused on how to increase it. Popular suggestions include:

  • Keep lessons short
  • Serve bite-size chunks of learning content
  • Give learners the freedom to jump around in the content
  • Give learners a way to quickly find what they want
  • Include learning games
  • Include social learning activities
  • Etc.

Although there are many strategies to increase engagement, there’s remarkably little on the subject of measuring engagement.

Ethan Zuckerman, a Blogger and researcher at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, has proposed a solution. In his post titled “An idea worth at least 40 nanoKardashians of your attention,” Mr. Zuckerman suggests the establishment of a new unit, the Kardashian, as a measure of attention. To be clear, this is not a measure of quality, but rather…

[the] Kardashian is an exemplar of attention disconnected from merit, talent or reason. The Kardashian mentions how much attention is paid, not how much attention is deserved…

An obvious way to apply the idea of Kardashian units to learning and development would be through Kirkpatrick level 1 evaluations. Learners could be asked, for instance:

Which best describes your experience with this learning content?

  • I was totally in the zone. The rest of the world ceased to exist. I lost track of time. (High Kardashian)
  • I made it through the content but had to use willpower and the reward of eating a piece of chocolate once completed. (Mid Kardashian)
  • I checked Facebook and Twitter every two minutes. I couldn’t help myself.  (Low Kardashian)

A Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up Your Learning Management System (Part 6)

May 23, 2012 5 comments

We’ve passed the mid-way mark in our structured approach to setting up a learning management system. So far, we’ve examined the following:

STEP 6: Import, Configure, and Test Content

If you have a large amount of content, this will be the most time-consuming part of your new LMS implementation. Being a strategic LMS super administrator, you realized the scope of the effort in `STEP 2: Perform a Content Inventory Audit’ and consequently may have created a number of course manager admin accounts in `STEP 4: Define Administrator Roles and Create Admin Accounts.’ So, you won’t need to tackle this alone.

If you don’t have a lot of existing content, you’ll of course work through this step fairly quickly.

In this step, you’ll:

  • Create within the LMS topic areas or categories for your content to match the topic areas you identified in your content inventory document
  • Import or create the relevant content within those categories
  • Configure the communication templates associated with your content. These messages and/or e-mails will be how the system informs learners of events. Templates may include:
    • Enrollment messages
    • Reminders
    • Completion messages

Depending on the features of your LMS and the specific requirements of your learning initiative, you’ll then need to configure your content. Here are some common settings you may need to adjust:

  • Images associated with course
  • Course prerequisites
  • Course expiration settings
  • Cost of the course if it will be sold and if your LMS contains e-commerce capabilities
  • Passing grades of exams
  • Education units issued by completing the course
  • Certificates issued upon successful completion of individual courses

Absorb LMS Course Certification Settings

TIPS:

If you have a very large amount of content, considering tackling the content associated with your highest priority learning requirements first. You can then proceed with the other steps in this document and go live with the most urgent content first. You can continue adding new content while learners are completing their high priority courses.

Broadband internet accounts are designed for fast downloading of information. Unfortunately, their upload speeds are much slower. The result is that downloading a 100 MB file video file may go quickly but uploading such a file can take longer. If you have a lot of content to upload, speak to your vendor about options. They may import the information for you or provide you with a way to batch upload a large number of files.

Do you have a many courses that are very similar? (A common course type we see is a video followed by an exam of some type.) If so, you might be able to create one course, configure its settings, make duplicates of it in within your LMS, and then replace the title, video, and exam. Another common example might be instructor-led courses. Duplicating a course and changing the title, date/time, venue, and instructor may save you time over creating each from scratch.


At Last, a “Blatant Media” Google Alert Worth Reading

May 18, 2012 1 comment

Most of the Google Alerts I receive for the words “Blatant Media” are for Blog posts by enraged political activists who feel that there’s a conspiracy by the media to defame their preferred candidate. These posts can be entertaining at first (lots of exclamation points) but after a while, they become repetitive and predictable.

So-and-so was a shoe-in to become school commissioner until BLATANT MEDIA BIAS ruined her chances by printing the article about her dog killing a neighbour’s cat yada yada yada.

So, you can imagine my excitement when this week, Google alerted me to this Metro News article about the Blatant Media games room located in our new offices in the Inglewood area of Calgary.

Metro News: Calgary company’s $20K gaming room aims to bond employees

A Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up Your Learning Management System (Part 5)

May 17, 2012 5 comments

We’re now approaching the mid-point in this series. So far, we’ve examined the following:

STEP 5: Create Learner Groups and Placeholders for Identifiers

The day you tackle this step, you’ll be going home from work feeling smug and productive. Even if you have a large number of user groups, creating departments or groups for them in your LMS should be fairly fast and straightforward. Once again, you’re benefiting from the planning you did outside of the LMS in Step 1 and Step 3. Your learner groups are already identified and named. You just need to make this a reality within the system. So go ahead and create the learner groups you’ll need.Learner groups

Just one thing, though:

In `STEP 3: Establish Who Needs What Content,’ you identified which learners will have access to what content. If your spreadsheet or database indicates that only some people within certain groups will have access to that content:

  • You’ll need to make sure their learner data contains those differentiating characteristics
  • You’ll need to have a way to capture those characteristics in the LMS.

For instance, if you have a course that is intended for only the managers in your sales department, you’ll need to ensure that there’s a way in the system to differentiate sales managers from non-managers.

So at this point, you’ll need to consider:

  • How learner accounts will be created in the system
    • Imported into the LMS through an integration with an HR system or other enterprise application
    • Created through learner self-registration
    • Imported into the LMS from data contained in spreadsheets
    • Through the creation of individual learner accounts, almost always a bad idea due to the time and effort required
  • Whether the source of these accounts contains the differentiating characteristics that will allow you to provide these learners with the correct content
  • How to capture those characteristics in the LMS

Your LMS may provide you with a way to add additional learner record fields for these unique differentiating characteristics:

Regardless of how it’s done in your system, you’ll possibly need to establish how to differentiate your learners beyond groups before you import their records into the LMS. You’ll of course need to ensure that the source data for the learner records contains the required differentiating data. You’ll never be able to provide specific learning content to sales managers if you can’t identify who your sales managers are in the system.


A Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up Your Learning Management System (Part 4)

May 15, 2012 6 comments

We’re now 30 per cent of the way through this series. So far, we’ve examined the following:

STEP 4: Define Administrator Roles and Create Admin Accounts

Chances are you won’t be alone logging into the administrative control panel of your LMS. Others may require access as well. These people might include:

  • System administrators
  • Course authors/managers
  • Instructors
  • Course graders
  • Exam Proctors
  • HR managers

Apart from these standard roles, there may also be people who require some type of personalized access to the system once your new LMS is live. If you provide training to people outside of your organization, for instance, you may need to give access to an external manager to track the progress of her learners. You’ll want to ensure that this individual can only see progress reports related to her organization’s learners. The privacy of other learners must be respected so access rights need to be limited.

There are three things you need to accomplish in this stage:

  1. Define who gets access to the administrative area of the LMS
  2. Establish what they can do
  3. Decide where these administrators can perform their tasks, across the entire LMS or in only a sub-section such as a learner group

Not everyone involved in setting up the system needs to be a high-level system administrator. Course authors, for instance, can be provided with access rights limited to the tasks for which they are responsible: creating, importing, configuring, and testing content. Some learning management systems allow you to create custom roles that might better reflect your organization’s specific needs. If so, go ahead and create those custom roles as required.

You’re still a few steps away from going live with your new LMS. So, you may want to hold off on creating admin accounts for external managers or team leaders, instructors, and anyone else not directly involved in setting up the LMS. The system doesn’t really contain anything of interest to them yet. Create those accounts when you’re closer to going live.

You’ve been immensely patient throughout this series, resisting our natural desire get into the system and tinker. At long last, the time has come! Log into your new LMS and create administrative accounts for your team members. In creating their accounts, specify their roles. This may look something like this:

TIP: In some learning management systems, there’s one highest-level, super administrator account that allows someone to make significant changes, such as turning features on or off, to the system. The login for this account needs to be recorded somewhere secure and should not be used for day-to-day activities.

Where We’ll Be if Aliens or Zombies Attack

May 11, 2012 5 comments

When dot coms start clashing with dot nets (ok, you’re on to me. I’m not a programmer), Absorb LMS team members regroup and recharge by blowing virtual things up in the new Blatant Media games room.  The secure vault look suggests this would be a great place to escape post-apocalyptic scenarios such as zombie or extraterrestrial alien attacks. Of course, we’d need to somehow squeeze in the coffee machine and some cookies.

A professional photographer just took some new panorama shots of the Xbox room. Click the image below to access the panorama. Here’s a second panorama of the space.

(I’ve never before tagged a bog post with the words zombies, aliens, and corporate culture.)

A Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up Your Learning Management System (Part 3)

May 10, 2012 7 comments

So far in this series:

Those of you eager to start clicking inside your new learning management system will be happy to learn that today’s post is the last—I promise—step you’ll be performing outside of the learning management system. So far, we’ve identified the learner groups we`ll be serving and the content we’ll be providing. Today’s step consists of matching content to learners.

STEP 3: Establish Who Needs What Content

It may have seemed like a pain to create your content inventory audit, especially if you have a large amount of content. You’ll now, however, begin to reap the benefits of the work you’ve done. It’s time to connect the learners with the content.Photo of square peg, round hole by sfllaw

You’ll need to decide the following:

  • Who needs access to what content
  • Will the relevant content be assigned to the learner or will it placed in a catalog for learners to select themselves

Add extra columns to your content inventory audit spreadsheet or database. If some of the content needs to be available to all your internal learners, add a column named “Internal.” If you support learners outside your organization, add a column called “External.” Then, add columns for each of the learner groups you identified in step one.

You now need a way to specify in your matrix:

  • Which learner groups need which content
  • Whether everyone in that learner group needs the content or only specific people, (for instance, people with specific roles, people in certain regions, etc.)
  • Whether the content will be assigned or placed in a catalog for learners to enroll themselves

You can use whatever notation method you’d like as long as it can be understood by others. Avoid using abbreviations unless you provide a clear legend. If you’re feeling creative and like data visualization, color-code your cells. In the end, your matrix may now look something like this:

In case the image above is confusing, here’s a screen capture of a spreadsheet illustrating this approach.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up Your Learning Management System (Part 2)

The first post in this series discussed the importance of a structured approach to setting up a learning management system. We also started the process by identifying the learner groups we will be serving. In this instalment, we’ll identify and organize the content we’ll be providing to these learners.

STEP 2: Perform a Content Inventory Audit

One of the greatest strengths of a LMS is that it acts as a central repository for much of the formal content you’ll make available to learners. This content can be in many formats to support different learning modalities, including:

  • Self-paced SCORM courses
  • Videos
  • Exams
  • Documents
  • Instructor-led events
  • Etc.

Getting a sense of what you have by performing a content inventory audit will make creating learning paths and enrollment rules much easier later on.

Existing contentInventory photo

If you’re migrating from a learning management system to a new system, you likely have existing content you’ll be importing into your new LMS. Just as it’s a good idea to do a major purge of stuff you don’t need before moving into a new home, a content inventory can be a useful way to get a global view of your content. Such an inventory will likely uncover content that may be out-of-date and in need of updating or no longer relevant. Uncovering stale content in an inventory review will save you valuable time later on since you’ll have that much less content to import into your new LMS.

New content

If this is your first LMS, you may not yet have content. You should nevertheless map out what you plan to provide your learners. Your content inventory document will act as a content road map.

Your content inventory is best created using a spreadsheet or some type of database application. The beauty of using such tools is that you’ll easily be able to sort the data by various columns, making it a breeze to see all content types or topics grouped together.

If you have a way to share this document with other stakeholders so that many people can contribute simultaneously, the time required to complete the audit will be reduced significantly.

Here’s a potential structure that might make sense for a unilingual learning initiative. (Multilingual implementations should, of course, have a column added to specify language.)

This inventory document isn’t only for planning the launch of your LMS. Rather, it should be maintained and continually updated as your learning initiatives evolve.

(Again, I know you’re dying to start clicking on things in your new LMS. Please hang in there. It won’t be much longer.)