Immersive eLearing

How did you learn in school?

Lectures? — check.

Slide shows? — check.

Films? — check.

Staring out the window wishing you were somewhere else? — many times.

Wished your lessons were more engaging or interesting? — many times.

And then there were those role-playing activities in front of the class. Some students loved these and many were very uncomfortable, especially if they didn’t believe they had mastered the learning material.

Times have changed. This is not your old school or learning environment.

If you are younger than 30 you grew up on Nintendo, and other game consoles. Even if you are older than 30, chances are you started playing video games at some point in your life. The use of games to learn is now mainstream.

In the past we used face-to-face role-playing in individual and group sessions to improve communication or learn new skills. We also used games to uncover new opportunities and business strategies.

I remember in the early 90’s the organization I worked for an organization that retained an outside consulting firm to facilitate organizational change. The outside firm was helping hospitals bring about change in thinking about ways to reduce health care expenses. The firm created a 3-day face-to-face game to explore changes in health care with the role-playing designed to uncover new strategies and opportunities. The game was very expensive, both in costs and in time. One concern was that not everyone who took part was prepared for the public role-playing. In many cases the participant hadn’t mastered the material and really didn’t want to “wing it” in front of peers. In other cases, participants really didn’t feel comfortable engaged in role-playing in front of their peers.

Today, the same situation exists. Face-to-face role playing and simulation games are very expensive. This is especially true if the participants are spread out geographically, even in the same city. Additionally, a portion of the participants are still not suited for this public simulation.

We are beginning to see data that demonstrates that people, behind the anonymity of virtual world avatars, can more actively participate and learn in virtual role-playing sessions. These sessions can be one-on-one or small groups. The sessions are less costly and are yielding higher learning results. These sessions are especially effective in learning new communication skills. The improved learning happens because the anxiety many students dealt with in face-to-face sessions is reduced. In virtual learning environments, they can focus on improving their communication skills, interactions, and the material.

So let’s look at a concrete example.

You have a need to teach new communication skills or coach individuals. Your students are geographically spread out. You know that some of your students do not like public role-playing. You also need a cost-effective way to conduct the role-playing or mentoring one-to-one.

One approach is to use an immersive learning environment. Gartner, the technology research firm, has their definition. Essentially, these are 3D virtual worlds.

Second Life (SL) jumpstarted the teaching and learning in immersive learning environments in 2003. SL is still the preeminent platform with large corporations, higher education, and government agencies using the virtual world for a wide range of learning activities. But you don’t have to be a large corporation or agency to use Second Life.

O2 Digital Media has been actively engaged in Second Life since 2007 upon returning from a Brandon Hall Innovations conference. Let us know how we can help you explore and structure how to use an immersive learning environment to meet your role-playing or skill simulation needs.

Collaborative eLearning

What a difference 21 years makes, much less 51.

Doug Engelbart earned an incredible reputation as one of our true computing pioneers and strategic thinkers.DEI_SanFran1968

Use a computer mouse — thank Doug.

Have multiple windows open on your desktop — thank Doug.

Shared screens and video conferencing — thank Doug.

All of these were demonstrated in 1968 in what’s been called the “Mother of All Demos.” Check the video clip out. It’s worth your time to see what really helped start the personal computer revolution.

Today, the world is a very different place then it was in the 1980’s, 90’s and 00’s.

We are highly mobile with smart phones and tablets that use LTE cellular and wifi connections to make real time connections. Connections are made and lost in the blink of an eye. Tweets rapidly scroll across the screen in 140 character blocks only to be replaced by others within minutes. Facebook news feeds roll by even quicker with most lost to oblivion unless you stay glued to the Facebook window. There is little to no context in social media scrollbyes. Everything happens in the moment.

We have learned that technology and and how we use it evolves in cycles. Many of the lessons learned in the 80’s and 90’s are repeated with increasing frequency today.

Questions to reflect on with collaborative eLearning….

  • How do we learn in the context of our work?
  • How can we take advantage or mentors, coaches, and colleagues?
  • How can companies, small and large, take advantage of the knowledge in their organization?

Doug Engelbart and others pointed out the answers…

Engelbart described a conceptual framework for augmenting the human intellect through the use of technology in October, 1962. In his research, augmentation means “increasing the capability…to approach a complex problem situation, to gain a comprehension to suit…particular needs, and to derive solutions to the problem.” Critical to his vision is a framework that integrates the worker, the learner, and the work situation with conditions that facilitate “increasing capability.”

A longtime colleague and friend, Rao Machiraju and his co-authors described applying Engelbart’s Augmentation Framework to organizational memory as a support for learning in 1991.

Texas Hospital Association, the organization I was with in 1992, faced four principle barriers in delivering learning to health care professionals. The barriers were time, location and distance, the structure of the learning experience, and cost. Texas is a huge state making travel from rural Texas or across the state problematic.

We did not have the World Wide Web in 1992. The Web started its development with the introduction Netscape in 1994. The Internet was not fully commercialized until 1995. Yes, there was a time we could not have commercial activity on the Internet. There was even a time when all we had were private data networks which did not connect to each other. We learned the same collaborative eLearning lessons back then that we are relearning today — except back then we called it computer-mediated communication, distance learning, and computer conferencing.

Beginning in 1989 and extending to 1996, my colleagues and I applied Engelbart’s framework to an evolving health education model at the Texas Hospital Association.

First, the use of context-rich cases. Learners often explain their actions in a new situation by referring to processes and outcomes of an earlier analogous situation. They try and help colleagues by replaying cases or stories from their own experiences. The second source of support is access to collaborators. Three key roles of a collaborator are to serve as an agent for finding information, to explore alternative perspectives, and to help a person practice or rehearse a solution. The third source of support is archived references. These resources include items such as technical reference libraries or printed [now digital] materials. The fourth source for self-directed problem solving is through practice (trial and error modeling). These approaches are often combined with the learner watching or hearing of someone doing a procedure and trying to replicate the procedure.” The abstract can be found at the US National Library of Medicine and the article published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences can be found here.

Each of the four elements was addressed in four development projects.

  • The first project, funded by Apple’s Community Affairs Program and the Texas Hospital Association, supported the efforts of five rural directors of nursing. We explored the practicality of rural nurses sharing context-rich cases and having access to collaborators.
  • The second project, funded by the Texas Cancer Council, created the Cancer Learning Center for 20 tumor registrars, each from a different hospital. The tumor registrars accessed structured computer conferences that mirrored the Fundamental Tumor Registry Operations educational modules developed by the American College of Surgeons. The project explored the effectiveness of tumor registrars sharing context-rich cases and having access to collaborators and archived references.
  • The third applied the concepts to the Texas portion of a national Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant. The project was designed to provide upward career mobility for health care employees going to school full-time, working part-time, and paid full-time. We wanted to see if the students could receive part of their education without leaving the workplace. We also wanted to use our computer conferencing system to manage the Texas project which included Schools of Nursing and hospitals. This project allowed us to add one of the first non-profit Internet nodes in Austin, Texas.
  • The fourth project, funded by the American Society of Association Executives, was designed to use groupware tools to improve management to meet member needs. A group of association volunteer leaders and staff explored using group communications tools to develop cost-effective, timely, and collaborative management solutions.

The principal lessons learned from each of the projects are now being relearned in collaborative eLearning discussion boards and LMS’s using social media. Not an optimal or cost-effective strategy in today’s budget-tight eLearning world.

You need a process designed to encourage and reward collaborative eLearning.
Technology deployment alone won’t make it happen.

Ask yourself, how many times have you taken an eLearning course with a discussion board — and the discussion board is a ghost town with with scattered tombstone posts from three or four years ago?

We learned the answers back in the 80’s and 90’s. Want to learn more, email O2 Digital Media to see how we can help you take advantage of collaborative eLearning strategies that work.

Audio improves eLearning

Audio can substantially improve learning outcomes

Audio narration can yield an average learning improvement of 80%.

You should never use audio in a gratuitous manner. Want to depress a student’s learning capacity, read to them. Reading text that appears on screen is highly counterproductive. It is a waste of the student’s mental bandwidth and your computer’s bandwidth.

You use audio in very specific situations. Audio should be used in situations where information overload is likely. A good example is using audio narration to walk people through a series of screens, a sequence of steps in a software application, a series of images, or an animation. Ruth Clark notes that “if you have to read text and at the same time watch the animation, overload is more likely than when you can hear the animation being narrated.” One eLearning Best Practice is to give the student control over the audio player. They can start, pause, and replay the audio to ensure they understand the point you are trying to make.

Lessons Learned

I often get into discussions with a good friend and colleague of mine about the quality of the audio. We are both audiophiles spending a lot of time with headphones and now ear buds listening to audio. Our slight disagreement is with the quality of the audio produced when using a USB headset vs. a USB desktop microphone. My perspective, achieve the best audio you can record by using a good USB desktop microphone. I believe headsets are to inconsistent in the audio quality they deliver.

We have created a fair number of Rapid eLearning courses. In the early days we recorded the authors using Skype using a Skype to landline phone connection. We then were able to move our authors to a Skype-to-Skype digital connection online. This made a huge difference in the quality of the audio. The only issues we encountered happened when our authors used a wireless connection and headset in their location. Their PC’s audio card did not have enough power to create clean audio over wireless.

The optimal solution is for the author to create their own individual audio recordings. They have total control over the editing process at this point. Again, I would recommend a good USB desktop microphone to produce the best quality audio.

Visual eLearning

Adding graphics to words improves learning.

People retain 89% more information when graphics and text are used together as noted by Ruth Clark and Richard Meyer, two eLearning instructional design pioneers. Graphics are custom images, drawings, illustrations, licensed images that convey the context, and even animations and video.

Learning occurs by the encoding of new information in permanent memory called long-term memory. According to a theory called Dual Encoding, content communicated with text and graphics send two codes — a verbal code and a visual code. Having two opportunities for encoding into long-term memory increases learning.    — Six Principles of Effective eLearning: What works and Why, Ruth Clark.

In addition, graphics can’t be gratuitous.

It is important to select graphics that are congruent with the text and the learning objectives. Gratuitous graphics, think “clip-art,” distract people from key learning points. They muddy up the message and depresses learning and retaining the important information.

We discourage authors from just using text only. We will not use irrelevant or gratuitous clip-art. We ensure that you see graphics, illustrations, and images that are related to the content. They are placed next to the relevant text to reinforce the learning point.

O2 Digital Media creates custom graphics to help our authors nail their learning objectives. We also use licensed images to achieve the same result.

Author eLearning

reviewingYou have content that you want to share. You want this content structured so that the person who takes your course (content) learns specific, measurable pieces of information – learning objectives. You want the individuals who take your course (content) to retain the information and apply it in their work or non-work setting.


  • Your business or organization has content that you want to share with employees, suppliers, or the general public.
  • If you are an association, you may want to share the content with your board or membership.
  • A non-profit may want to share content with your donors, prospective donors, or volunteers.
  • If you are a teacher you may want to share how-to’s or reviews with other teachers. You may also want to create courses for your students.
  • Independent trainers may want to share parts or all of their face-to-face training sessions.
  • Application developers may want to share how-to’s and demonstrations of your software application.

The list goes on…but you get the point.

This is what eLearning is all about.

And, while most eLearning courses are hosted on Learning Management Systems they do not have to be. Courses can be placed on a website, distributed on a CD or a flash drive. Courses can even be shared through services like Dropbox.

The important part is you have content that you want other individuals to have access to and review in a structured manner to learn something specific.

So how do you get the content into a course?

whatwecandoThat’s where O2 Digital Media can help. We have a comprehensive background in creating courses to meet your needs. We have produced, or helped authors produce courses in more than a dozen industries. This gives us a range of experience to help you tailor your content to the type of course you want to create.

What do you need to get started?

Typically, authors have created Powerpoint or Keynote presentations. Others have the content in Word documents or PDF files. These formats are the building blocks to help you get started in authoring an eLearning course.

How will the course be displayed?

That’s up to you and your organization. We can produce your courses in one or more of several different formats.

  • Interactive eLearning courses. This format is hosted on an LMS, website, are shared in some other manner. Interactive eLearning courses contain pages that include text, graphics, and images. We can create custom graphics so the author’s point is made more professionally than with clipart. Multimedia including audio, video, and animations are important elements in this course format. Truly interactive courses include interactive exercises allowing the learner to perform virtual “try it” exercises or simulations. Test questions with a passing score of 80 percent complete the assessment.
  • Rapid eLearning courses. This format is a narrated Powerpoint or Keynote presentation. Courses include text, images, graphics, and test questions. We have created custom graphics so the author does not need to worry about using cheap looking clipart. Ideally speaker’s notes are included as the course transcript, however, we have created courses without speaker’s notes. Some of the more advanced courses will include interactive exercises. Course authors provide the narration or voice talent is retained.
  • Screencasts. Screencasts are digital recordings of computer screens. Screencasts are used to take learners through “how-to” tutorials or application demonstrations. They show how to perform specific actions using your computer. Screencasts narration and sometimes video of the author interspersed in the cast. They can enlarge parts of the screen to draw attention to an element such as an menu bar. They can also include computer audio including mouse clicks.
  • Webinar conversion to a Rapid eLearning course. Webinars are an extension of web conferences. Typically, organizations broadcast a presentation, lecture, or workshop over the Web. In many cases there is limited audience interaction. In other cases, Webinars are more collaborative and include chats to answer questions or offer viewpoints from members of the audience. O2 Digital Media has taken Webinar slides and narration and converted the Webinar to a Rapid eLearning course. This format add more structure to the author’s delivery, cleans up some of the delays and other nuances common to Webinars, and adds test or quiz capabilities.

Contact O2 Digital Media to see how we can help take your content and create one or more courses for your organization.

Create eLearning


O2 Digital Media incorporates benchmark development processes and emphasizes the importance of client feedback in every phase.

O2 Digital Media uses proven process developed for software developers, instructional designers, and product managers. You will find variations on this theme or the use of different terms across industries and the world. Essentially, we follow five simple and easy to use steps.

  • Define Phase: Create a define and design document with associated flowcharts, storyboard, and selected page mockups using Pages or MS Word document.
  • Design Phase: Describe the eLearning graphical user interface (GUI), and course navigation. Course navigation follows the course, topic, page model. Example mockups and several course module images are created.
  • Produce (Develop) Phase: Create eLearning framework using the approved GUI, course navigation, graphic images, interactive and scenario exercises, and knowledge mastery tests.
  • Testing Phase: Make modifications based on User Acceptance Testing.
  • Deploy Phase: Deploy course online or in some cases using a CD.

Deliver eLearning

Infographic courtesy of Capterra

You have educational content. Your staff, O2 Digital Media, or another contractor has taken your content and created a course. Now, how is the course delivered or made available?

There are several ways to deliver courses. Traditionally, organizations have used a Learning Management System (LMS). An LMS is a software application that is used for “administration, documentation, tracking, reporting, and delivery of eLearning education courses or training programs.”

O2 Digital Media is Learning Management System (LMS) agnostic. Our courses have been created for delivery on ten different LMS platforms or hosting services including Moodle, IntraLearn, Digital Ignite, Cornerstone, Intelladon, and Saba. Moodle is rated as one of the best LMSs in the world and in the fall 2011 represented 19% of the higher education market in the U.S. Moodle also accounts for a large share of the corporate market. Moodle is an open source LMS that has organizations across the world continuing to improve its capabilities.

  1. Moodle. Moodle is rated as one of the best LMSs in the world and in the fall 2011 represented 19% of the higher education market in the U.S. Moodle is also used by corporate training departments for similar reasons as the higher education market – Moodle is an open source LMS. There is a global framework of development partners who continue to improve Moodle’s capabilities. O2 Digital Manages a Moodle LMS with over one hundred courses for one of our long-term clients.
  1. SCORM conversion. SCORM is a collection of standards and specifications for web-based eLearning. SCORM defines how the student’s browser communicates with the LMS. It was created by the U.S. Department of Defense through its Advanced Distributed Learning initiative. There are a number of SCORM versions including the Tin Can API which was finalized into version 1.0 in April, 2013.

SCORM is used to package existing interactive eLearning courses for delivery on different LMSs. O2 Digital Media has successfully packaged hundreds of courses for delivery on several different LMS’s. SCORMed courses are a great way to extend your organization’s reach by licensing courses to another provider. It is also a good way to take courses created for one LMS and move them to another LMS when the organization changes LMSs.

  1. IntraLearn and other LMSs. IntraLearn was one of the early LMS companies founded in 1994. Today, more than 2,000 organizations are using IntraLearn to deliver courses across the world. IntraLearn, Moodle, and the other LMS platforms we have worked with are among the 500 providers worldwide according to the recent Bersin & Associates study.
  1. No LMS. What if your organizations doesn’t have an LMS and doesn’t want to invest in one. You are a small to mid-sized business, association, or non-profit and you just want to share content with a specific group of people. O2 Digital Media can help you identify how to deliver course content without an LMS.

Contact O2 Digital Media to learn how we can help you deliver your courses, one Moodle, another LMS using SCORM, or just on your website, on CD, or on a USB drive.

Video – is it the new print?

iStock by Getty Images recently asked “is video the new print?” Their conclusion, “If you want attention to your brand, product or idea these days, research shows you’ll get more eyes and ears on it with moving images than static ones.”

  • Consider some of the bullets in their infographic:
  • 800% increase in online video consumption over past 6 years
  • The new media consumer: raised entirely by technology
  • The youth are leading the revolution: 18-34 year-olds in 2015: 90% of online video consumption
  • 550% of the internet’s population consumes news through online video
  • 75% of aspiring cooks watch recipe videos online
  • 6.7 million online students watch video lectures online, up9.3% from last year
  • Internet users spend 88% more time on sites with video

One way individuals learn is by Visualizing. The person is actually thinking in images and videos are 30 images per second. The old adage, a picture is worth a 1,000 words is magnified at 30 frames per second.

O2 Digital Media creates or edits thirty and sixty second clips to nail a learning point. Ideally, videos are less than 3 minutes although some clients want longer clips to illustrate several learning points.

We also create short how-to video demonstrations, product or course introductions, and animations. These tutorials are useful not only in courses but also on websites. Raft The Guadalupe River is an example of one of our introductions.

Application developers are increasingly using short, less than three minute introductions and how-to demonstrations to differentiate their application. Authors and publishers are beginning to include short video clips in their rich media eBooks, especially those made for the iPad using Apple’s iBooks Author.

Contact O2 Digital Media to see how we can help you use video in your course or on your website.

eLearning is digital life long learning

methodsIt’s not Norman Rockwell’s 1950’s.

We are increasingly mobile. We no longer work for one company our entire career. We are returning for advanced degrees.

Our jobs have become more specialized. They also require constantly updated skills and knowledge.

Our new skills and knowledge advance our careers. They also help us stay employed.

We are beginning to change careers. We can change careers because we can also acquire new skills and knowledge — that build upon our earlier experience.

Even our hobbies and home life of our life now require new skills and knowledge. Want to renovate  your home? You need to learn new skills. Want to add a hobby? The same approach applies. You start with searching for how to do something, watch video clips or read step-by-step tutorials.

Today, we are all engaged in life long learning.

How we acquire our new skills and knowledge? How do we find the time to do this given our hectic schedules?

How do organizations deliver skills and knowledge to their employees? To their customers? How do organizations deliver new content when it is convenient for the person taking the course? That’s why we have the “e” in eLearning.

The “e” in eLearning means the course is stored in digital format. You can take a course when it is convenient for you. The convenience factor also means you are ready to learn because you are focused on the task at hand.

eLearning means effective life long learning.

eLearning has been around since 1960 but you wouldn’t recognize it. eLearning used to be the province of large corporations, universities, and governments. Today, that is not the case. Small and mid-sized organizations are growing and thriving because they provide access to new skills and knowledge acquisition. eLearning is also available to individual teachers, coaches, mentors, and application developers. The explosion of blogs and how-to videos illustrate that individuals can be effective at teaching new steps and reviewing products and services.

What is eLearning? Here’s a quick primer.

eLearning uses electronic media combined with information and communication technologies to deliver education. You take self-paced courses when it is convenient for your schedule. You do not have to rely on everyone in the class getting together at the same time, in the same place. The eLearning material is available 24/7/265 — twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and three hundred sixty-five days a year. These self-paced courses are asynchronous.

Asynchronous learning is student-centered learning. Asynchronous learning takes place without regard time, distance, and location constraints. The eLearning resources are usually organized and delivered from a Learning Management Systems (LMS). The LMS stores and shares the content with registered students. The LMS also enables online interaction among students and teachers. Students can post and reply to messages in structured or unstructured discussion boards. Other forms of peer-to-peer or student-to-coach, mentor, or teacher can take place including text or voice chat, telephone conversation, videoconferencing using Skype or FaceTime, and even meetings in 3D virtual spaces such as Second Life.

Instructor-led courses are referred to as synchronous learning. This is a learning environment where teachers and students are in the same place at the same time. Technology has evolved to support instructor-led courses with everyone gathered at one online location at the same time. The use of technologies such as instant messaging or live chat, webinars, and video conferencing allow students and teachers to collaborate, learn, and share knowledge in real time.

Blended learning is a hybrid that uses both asynchronous and synchronous learning.

Today, mobile learning is increasingly popular. Mobile eLearning means learning is convenient and accessible from any location, even the when you are sitting in the backyard or on the beach. It also means you are using a mobile device like a tablet and you are at home leaning back in your chair. You are not sitting upright staring into a computer screen. Mobile eLearning can also be collaborative. It can be real time and sharing can be almost instantaneous among classes with everyone using the same content which leads to instant feedback and tips.

Taken together, eLearning is a structured way to deliver consistent information to build new skills or add to a person’s knowledge.

We used different words to describe the process. In reality, eLearning is about making new information, skills, and knowledge available to an adult when they need it and when it is convenient to learn. That’s all there is to it.