From a learning objectives standpoint, what comes before the assessment is the actual training and knowledge transfer.The biggest hurdle to effective and engaging eLearning is the screen content and how the user interacts with it. The team at Centrax has coined the term “CAI Ratio” to apply some context to the area of effective eLearning programs, especially when it comes to Rapid eLearning Development.CAI stands for “Content Area Interaction” Ratio.This represents the number of screens in a program that have interactive media elements within the content area versus the number of static screens in a program that consists of only text and still images.
What is it that keeps a person in front of a game console at Best Buy for hours until their family or friends come yank them away? In contrast, why do online training users get bored and abandon eLearning programs within minutes? It’s all about what occurs within the content area of a screen. The content area pertains to everything on the screen except the navigation buttons of an eLearning program or the space bar/arrow buttons used to advance a PowerPoint program to the next screen.
From a CAI Ratio standpoint, a video game would have a 100% CAI Ratio since you are always interacting within the content area.Users’ constant interaction with the content area (playing the game) keeps them engaged. On the other hand, a 40 screen (PowerPoint based) eLearning program with all bullet pointed text and still image based screens would have a 0% CAI ratio since you only click the “Next” button to move to each of the 40 screens. With the recent Rapid Development trend, a 0% CAI Ratio is very common for courses.This is due to most of the Rapid Development tools such as Articulate, Captivate, and Lectora Publisher having the capability to import PowerPoint programs and then export them to eLearning programs.The problem, of course, is if you start with a 0% CAI Ratio PowerPoint, then you will end up with a 0% CAI Ratio eLearning program.Most of the rapid development programs have “off the shelf” interactive media elements that you can import into your course.But even these fall short if your content is custom in nature (i.e. operation of a specific medical or mechanical device).
A screen would receive a CAI point if the user interacts with the content area. Of course sound instructional design principles need to be applied to the screen; the interaction cannot be meaningless.
In addition, a visually engaging screen (that a user does not necessarily interact with) would qualify for a CAI point if it is a graphically rich screen that conveys the message very well.For example, unlike a PowerPoint screen with text bullet points and static clip art, a fully animated complex flow chart “interacts” with the viewer visually to provide the desired knowledge transfer.
A. 40 screen Articulate program with text and clip art on each screen:0/40 = 0% CAI Ratio
B. 40 screen Articulate program with 10 screens of interactive elements: 10/40= 25% CAI Ratio
An ideal CAI Ratio for a course is 40 – 60%. Lower CAI Ratio numbers can be effective as well.
One very important point is that even though a CAI Ratio may be 25%, the user acceptance of the program may go up much more than that ( i.e. 60 -80%) since the user will have some interactive screens to work with. Their perception of the course will be much better if it contains 10 out of 40 highly customized and interactive screens.Also the user would tend to “forgive” the other 30 screens that are static in nature.
There are vast numbers of courses on corporate intranets that were quickly generated with PowerPoint files in conjunction with Rapid Development tools.To truly facilitate user transfer of skills, there needs to be an analysis and determination of the course CAI ratio. That will enable organizations to increase their ROIwhile enhancing the overall achievement of learning objectives.
Centrax develops TrainingBYTES® that can be used with all of the Rapid Development tools on the market to raise CAI Ratio levels. Our Rapid Development Program Enhancement service compliments the TrainingBYTE® offering.
The term coined ‘Rapid eLearning’ is the newest trend in formal eLearning. Rapid eLearning is usually referring to software such as Captivate and Articulate that allow an individual or organization to develop eLearning without an eLearning staff. Software tools to accommodate this business need only make sense. The trend is also being furthered by tight economic times when there is less funding to have an outside eLearning development firm produce the programs.
However, Rapid eLearning softwares are not going to put high quality eLearning development companies out of business. There are limitations to how far the software will be able to take in-house training authors. Not because in-house authors are inferior but it is impossible for one person or a few persons to become an entire eLearning development team even with the best software. eLearning companies employ many specialists including: an IT Department, Instructional Designers, Project Managers, Creative and/or Art Directors, Video Production Team, Graphic Designers, Multimedia Designers, Audio Producer and Voice Over Talent. You get the point… many hats for a software to fill.
Forrester Research released a study commissioned by Adobe, whose Rapid eLearning software is Captivate. The study does show trends that are promising for Rapid eLearning software. The studies shows that Rapid eLearning is best for content that changes often and has little to no budget to be disseminated.
The study does attempt to balance itself by highlighting problems with Rapid eLearning — one of the greatest problems seems to be that the learners do not take the courses seriously. A whopping 38% reported this as their main issue. Followed closely by the next issue — a lack of interactivity.
eLearning programs must meet a balance of cost, time, and quality to produce knowledge retention. Rapid eLearning programs tend to only factor in cost and time, leaving behind quality multimedia and instructional design. Ultimately what often is lost is knowledge retention or even primary understanding.
One glaring omission in the study is a direct comparison of professionally developed eLearning versus Rapid eLearning as well as, knowledge retention measurements. The effectiveness of the programs that lack interactivity (most Rapid eLearning) has been shown to be much lower than that of their professionally developed counterparts that include more interactivity. According to Edgar Dale’s ‘Cone of Experience’, page-turner programs (Rapid eLearning style) that can expect a maximum of 50% retention… versus interactive eLearning can expect rates as high as 90%.
One great example of the effectiveness of high quality, highly interactive eLearning is evident in the eLearning Centrax developed for the AMPM Franchise Training that won a Brandon Hall Award. Combining extraordinary 3D graphics and gaming components with sound instructional design, Centrax and our client created a course that franchise employees enjoy, while developing essential skills that they can transfer to the job. The Handling Food Complaints e-learning module is divided into two parts — the first immerses learners in scenarios where they respond to a customer’s report feeling sick after consuming a product from the store. The second part focuses on the food production process, or “flow of food”, engaging learners in food complaints related to how food is prepared and displayed. Although encouraged by positive feedback from the initial curriculum rollout, our AMPM client wanted proof that their innovative training was accomplishing their goals.
Our client hired Learning Gauge Inc. to conduct a statistically valid, thorough evaluation of the Handling Food Complaints e-learning module. The evaluation demonstrated retention with the drill being conducted a full two weeks after completing the module. The results speak for themselves. Eighty percent of pilot training participants were able to verbally explain the proper food complaint reporting procedures, while only twenty percent of employees who did not complete the training accurately performed the proper procedures during the drill. The bottom line? Employees who took the course demonstrated significantly greater knowledge of the food complaint process than employees who did not participate in the training.
The question remains how much is actually gained by cost savings of Rapid eLearning when the expertly constructed eLearning programs are giving far greater results. Individual organizations will have to gauge what makes sense for budgets and long term goals of knowledge transfer and retention.
The following are some tips Centrax Flash developers and designers have learned mostly the old fashioned way… trial and error.
Optimize the screen size for viewing area. Centrax finds that 990x760 is a good maximum screen size for viewing on various screen sizes and will accommodate the Internet browser navigation.
Streamline development. Create a main player movie that will load your pages / movies and screen elements. Centrax has taken this a step further and developed our own main player movie Framework with supporting elements like navigation files and a library of functions. Centrax Flash developers and designers reuse these core elements for each eLearning program. This improves development time, leaves more time for design and content development.
Make your Flash source files easy and fast to edit. Develop a naming convention for symbols and channels on the timeline in your movies, so that anyone editing the file (including yourself) is able to quickly and easily navigate the file.
Animate everything on a separate channel. Make separate channels on the timeline for every animated element especially text. For example, if you have 5 bullets of text that animate in at different times on the same channel, you would have to change it 5 times if the first bullet changes instead of once, if the bullets are separated into different channels.
Optimize your graphics. Always optimize and resize your graphic images in Photoshop or another image editor before you import them into the Flash source file. This will usually give your images a cleaner look as well since they are not being “squashed,” and save on your executable file size/bandwidth.
Save your hard drive space and bandwidth. Make your flash files cheetah-sleek by deleting unused symbols. You can do this quickly through the symbol library menu by using “Select Unused” and click the Trash icon. Then "Save and Compact" (under the File menu) after your final edit, then publish your file. This will save your hard drive space and also usually export a smaller file.
Easy audio syncing and cuing. Place numbers in your audio scripts to match with numbered labels placed on the Flash timeline. As you put the audio in the files place the numbered labels to know exactly where animations should start/stop. You won’t have to go back and listen to the same audio again and again to place animations.
Save bandwidth while preserving audio quality. You will get best results by editing the audio outside of Flash before importing it. Edit your audio to 22Hz and mix down to mono.
Test, test, test. Test the movie every so often while you are creating it. Be sure to watch the entire file once it is finished. You will save yourself and your tester time later on.
Keep a backup and save versions as you develop. If you are using a Mac, TimeMachine is your friend but don’t count on it exclusively as it may not back up as often as you need a new version.
I have seen this kind of change technology come before, but I did not recognize it instantly the first time. In the early 90’s, my dad, being a programmer, knew about all things computer and tech. He showed me how to use his CompuServe dial-up account...It was the Internet. I was not impressed. To me, the Internet was just a techie novelty.
Later while at college in 1996, a friend, another programmer with a much better sales pitch, reintroduced me to the Internet. But this time he showed me the World Wide Web, which included visuals and search engines. This looked like the next big thing — and it was. The next semester I enrolled in the HTML classes to learn how to create web pages. I was the only non-engineer in this class (an Art and Design major). Two years later the Internet was almost omnipresent and nearly everyone had an email address. Now the Internet is an essential tool for daily life.
This time I see a similar phenomenon in Tablets and "Phablets"; we have what looks like a techie novelty, but I envision it becoming part of daily life. Being very curious and lovers of all a friend of mine acquired the iPad shortly after the latest one came out. Besides the ease of use and seamless user experience that is typical of Tablets , the power, cost, and convenience of the device makes it clear that changes are here for the PC world.
Here is why the Tablet will become ubiquitous with personal computing and business:
It is incredibly portable yet it is still powerful. Applications load quickly and web pages load as quickly as they would on my desktop.
The cost of ownership is quite minimal. Desktop publishing and office-type applications are only $10, and the device itself is relatively well-priced.
These office applications are the in the top selling applications for the iPad. People want to use iPad as a business device.
Programmers and digital designers alike are very interested in creating applications for the device. It is the new Gold Rush. In my experience this is reminiscent of the mid to late 90’s when most designers and computer geeks, I knew were experimenting with HTML and also trying out various languages for internet applications and interactive media. There will be many applications of all kinds for the device.
Perhaps the most persuasive reason that the Tablets are here to stay — People ‘get it’. Already, companies like Farmer’s Insurance are adopting iPads to deliver training documents in lieu of spending the money to print the documents. Farmer's Insurance bulk orders iPads for $200 per unit to deliver training documents digitally, rather than spend $350 per printed handbook. This is just the tip of the eLearning iceberg to come.
As for it’s long term effect on eLearning,a tablet is the perfect device to deliver training that is accessible all the time Centrax developers already and App that is cross platform. Our CSP ( Custom Sales Presentation) APP will bring a new level of usefulness to our industry for the tablet. This lightweight ‘techie novelty’ computer it is here to stay.
Now that iPad is proven to be popular, it is estimated to have sold more than 1,000,000 in only four weeks. As in my previous blog entry, it is a great device to consume content. However, developing content for it is an entirely different story.
The iPad supports popular media formats: AAC, MP3, AIFF and WAV for audio, MPEG-4, MOV, H.264 and M-JPEG for video, and PDF, MS Word, MS Excel, MS PowerPoint for documents. But unlike computers and perhaps other mobile devices, the iPad does not support Adobe Flash. Steve Jobs has publicly stated that the iPad will not support Flash now or in the future.
Whether it was a business or a technical decision to not support Flash for Apple is up for debate. As a learning content development company, we must look at the platform and decide whether we should support it. One million iPads is not such a small number, and the number will only grow as the iPad price comes down over time. Currently, the iPad is targeting the consumer, for consumer practices. Although we can’t forget that consumers make up all core client bases, the question remains whether the iPad is best suited for learning purposes for our client audiences.
Part of the iPad’s popularity is based on portability and its relative low cost for operations and support. However, is this enough to also make it a good tool for learning development and learning consumption? Currently all media files can be produced with existing tools such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Premier and After Effects. But to achieve the interactivity of Flash, there are only two paths on the iPad: using its built-in Safari browser, and the ability to develop a custom app. Let’s take a look at these features more in depth.
Safari on the iPad supports HTML 5, a new web scripting standard. However, because HTML 5 is so new, there is no authoring tool for designers to quickly design interactive content. The learning curve for developing native iPad apps is also steep. It is not only unfamiliar with designers, most programmers are also not familiar with the Objective-C language required to develop native iPad apps.
Apple has intentionally positioned the iPad as a new computing device, not as an extension of existing laptop or netbook computers. On the down side, we cannot use Flash to develop interactive learning content for the iPad, but hopefully as the platform matures and more tools become available to aid designers in rapid development of content, the iPad will be considered a promising mobile device for web-based training and learning.