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Rethinking Education

COVID-19 has demonstrated how turbulent times we live in. Suddenly, kids can’t go to school, tens of millions are losing their jobs and millions are severely sick or have died. The societies around the globe also face other steep challenges since inequality, intolerance, and various conflicts tend to increase especially in the most vulnerable countries due to climate change and other global crises such as COVID-19.

Everyone needs high-quality education to learn to live in a rapidly changing world and do it sustainably from social, economic, and environmental perspectives. Education must continuously renew to foster the skills and competencies needed in the dynamic world. There is a lot of debate internationally on what kind of skills and competencies are needed today and tomorrow developing the right mix is essential for any individual to become e.g. employable. But could education be even more? A great equalizer maybe?

The humanist vision of education is that it is an essential common good. This vision has been acknowledged for decades but it is probably more accurate and needed than ever before. Social responsibility, accountability of education are gaining importance and digital learning can deliver high-quality education to almost everyone on the planet. In many cases, access to different forms of formal and especially informal education digitally is a life changer. Learning to read, acquiring a new entrepreneurial skill, or finding a mentor overseas are great examples of modern, digital, and very accessible learning.

We at Claned feel that education is the greatest way to equalize global inequality and do something good with impact. In Ng’oswet province in rural Kenya, we delivered on a pro-bono basis a professional teacher training program to teachers who had never used digital tools before. As a result, 87% of them reported being able to use the core competencies learned in their daily work in classrooms. During COVID-19 we have helped a school in Pakistan to go digital and continue operations. In Mexico, we kicked off an initiative together with MY World Mexico to mobilize and engage people and organizations to support the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals in practice. We support entrepreneurship programs in Latin America, Africa, and Finland and plan to expand our reach globally. We are still a small company but even small things can make a huge impact especially on an individual level.

Doing business is important. Especially when it can be done common good in mind.

About the Author

Vesa Perälä, Claned CEO and Founder is a serial entrepreneur and natural-born business developer with decades of corporate and start-up know-how.


A successful business is created through continuous, collaborative and purposeful learning

“In the global economy, producing knowledge and learning are viewed as means for organizational success.” (Tikkamäki, K.2006).

The rapidly changing or evolving world and global markets have made sure that everyone is on their toes when it comes to education and learning also in the field of business. Another phenomenon tightly related to this time are the feelings of meaningfulness regarding work. In this text, I refer to the term as something that connects an individual’s values to the task at hand and helps employees and professionals feel like the task is worthwhile doing for the sake of the persons themselves, but also the organization and the society at large. Individuals need to see the purpose of what they do to become and stay motivated, and committed.  

In this blog, I explore the relation of meaningfulness and learning through three aspects, participation, collaboration, and continuity. As a disclaimer, I state that meaningful learning is reached through participating individuals in designing learning initiatives, supporting collaborative information sharing, and knowledge construction through continuous practice and refinement. The meaningfulness of learning is the key driver for competence development and the capability of organizations to renew themselves and thrive across time.   

  

Participation  

Commitment is created by participating learners, or let us say, employees, in designing what kind of training they need or might benefit from in regards to their work and with the changing world. Because, to be honest, it is truly the ones involved with the everyday practices and tasks that are the best to identify the challenges and problems involved in their work to which then management can offer appropriate support mechanisms such as training, together with relevant partners. To foster the feelings of autonomy, purpose, and meaningfulness, key aspects for motivation, let your employees take part in selecting what training is best for them and help them self-evaluate what they need as individuals and as teams.  

  

Collaborative learning  

Collaborative information sharing over case studies or events, or pieces of new information or transformation, is the key to bring out tacit knowledge. The more practical the work, the more tacit or hidden knowledge is accumulated through a person’s working years regarding how to best handle certain situations, for example. Individual employees easily become invaluable, even irreplaceable, and are in a key role in redefining company practices. In online learning, learning content itself can work as contextual assignments to bring out hidden knowledge and provide a platform to construct new knowledge, ideas, and innovations.   

  

Continuous learning   

Since the world, businesses, and jobs change, something learned 20 or even just a few years ago most likely is not viable anymore. So as a leader of today and tomorrow, be sure to offer your employees and yourself continuous learning opportunities for updating competence, to reskill, to reward yourself and your staff, to help your staff stay competitive on the job market. Also, be sensitive towards the information you get from your employees regarding the future scenarios of your organization and the needs for further education.  

About the Author

Solja Sulkunen works as Head of Customer Experience in Claned Group creating the best possible learning experience for all Claned users. She ensures everyday fast and easy deployment of the platform for our new users.


Claned + Startup Refugees

Increasing diversity and inclusion in entrepreneurship through immigrant training


Corona epidemy forcing all training online 

The cooperation between Claned and Startup Refugees started approximately a year ago, in 2019. After Corona epidemy hit the whole of Finland, like the rest of the world, the cooperation was intensified – as many other organizations, Startup Refugees needed to move all training online very quickly. All the courses planned for summer 2020 could not be organized in classrooms as planned – everything had to go online – and with a tight schedule. 

Claned has been supporting NGOs such as Startup Refugees by offering them Claned’s learning platform with pro bono contracts. “It is very important to us to support such diversity and inclusion promoting actors as Startup Refugees – we admire their unique business model – they collect applicants’ skill profiles on their website and inform them about positions with matching skill profiles. If the applicants perceive that they lack certain skills that frequently come up in the vacancies, they can attend courses organized by Startup Refugees to gain these missing competencies.  The courses provided by Startup Refugees are concentrated on developing especially work-related or entrepreneurship skills that will contribute to the employment of immigrants”, says Mervi Palander, one of the founders of Claned. 

Startup Refugees has definitely succeeded in its aims – the organization has been able to employ over 850 refugees and immigrants to work in paid vacancies (internships and other kinds of employments not included in this count). Over 200 immigrants interested in entrepreneurship have participated in their entrepreneurship courses. 

 

Quick course launch with help of content producer organization TAT 

The hard work has paid off – only in one month, Startup refugees were able to launch the first online course regarding entrepreneurship for immigrants. However, Startup Refugees received ideas and examples on how to build learning content and assignments from TAT (Economy and Youth) a Finnish organization specialized in supporting young people’s employment in Finland. Without them, Startup Refugees would not have succeeded in launching the online course so quickly. Startup Refugees’ course launch has been an ideal project to TAT since TAT aims to build bridges between school and working life by providing engaging learning solutions with actual knowhow about entrepreneurship, work, and economics, as Lauri Vaara, Pedagogical Expert at TAT, points out. 

“We hope that through our services the youngsters find their strengths, passions, and a meaningful place in the society,”  Vaara continues. 

 

Claned’s intuitive course platform enabling automated learning data management 

“It has been a great collaboration with Claned and TAT. Claned learning platform has saved us a lot of effort and time in organizing our online course. Without Claned we would have had to ask the course participants to return all assignments via e-mail. Contents in forms of videos, templates, etc. would have filled our e-mail inboxes. Now we were able to collect all assignments in Claned. On top of that, material sharing on the board has been so easy. This kind of easy manageability has saved us a lot of time.  Additionally, we would not have been able to collect as much feedback so easily and automatically from all our course materials – with the help of Claned’s platforms analytics, we were able to follow constantly and easily the course material ratings given by our course participants. Moreover, we were able to scale up our training in Finland and even aboard thanks to Claned and provide training to customers which we otherwise would not be able to serve due to their location. We aim to provide online courses as a part of our core services in the future”, Kati Lappeteläinen, Head of Business Program at Startup Refugees, summarizes. 

: : BDG Barbers at the Slush 2019 closing party, styling hair, and beards for the party. The company was born through the Startup Refugees Entrepreneurship Program.

Entrepreneurship summer course promoting diversity and inclusion in business 

According to Lappeteläinen, Startup Refugee’s summer course in Entrepreneurship is their first-ever course organized solely in an online environment. In this course, there are 29 participants from different areas around Finland. In many immigrants’ Finnish hometowns, it is hard to receive service or guidance in English, let alone in other languages such as Arabic, Persian, or Somalia – to mention a few. Startup Refugees, on the contrary, can serve immigrants with the abovementioned languages and now the organization can serve their clients everywhere via Claned.  

“As far as we know, this is also the first-ever interactive online course regarding entrepreneurship in Finland. The interactivity comes e.g. from online workshops organized in Zoom meetings,” Lappeteläinen states. “In these workshops, we have included entrepreneurs with immigrant backgrounds as speakers. Claned has also brought changes to the pedagogical aspects of our courses e.g. we have added short reflective written assignments after the workshops to help learners understand what they have learned in each module.” 

“It is very important for immigrants and even more important for immigrant entrepreneurs to be able to operate in digital environments to become employed, succeed as an entrepreneur or even keep up with the digital development of society’s functions,” Lappeteläinen points out. Even the access for digital learning devices might become a challenge of itself according to Lappeteläinen: “It has been a bit challenging for some course participants to study since they do not own a computer or a laptop.”  

We can all agree that Startup Refugees and Claned are doing some groundbreaking work in promoting diversity and inclusion by providing entrepreneurial training to immigrants regardless of time and place. It is utterly important to provide high-quality training for the ones who do not have the same starting point, access to resources, information and guidance as most of the Finns do. 

About the Author

Anna Vanha-Honko works as a Customer Support Trainee which means that she helps our customers to gain the best user experience from our software. She is knowledgeable regarding organizational learning, people processes, and culture.


An alternative to discussion forums in online learning

An alternative to discussion forums in online learning

Discussions are an essential part of online learning. Engaging with other learners is both pleasant and productive. Conversations create divergent thinking and help to develop thinking skills. Moreover, they increase motivation and engagement. Learners enjoy getting feedback from their personal views and reading what others think.

But not all discussions are alike. There is a difference between ignorant comments and rigorous argumentation. You can do a lot with well-designed assignments, but the platform has as an effect as well.

 

The effect of the platform

Yanyan Sun and Fei Gao examined the effect of a threaded discussion forum and a contextual social annotation in their article in The Internet and Higher Education journal. First, they assigned course participants randomly to groups. The groups did the one part of a course on a discussion forum and another with contextual annotation tool.

The results indicated that the two environments impacted student participation, knowledge construction processes, and the nature of discussions. Participants posted more comments in the contextual discussion compared to the discussion forum, and the discussion was more specific and precise. Comments on the discussion forum were closer to general commentary. Learners reported that it was easier for them to exchange ideas on the contextual discussion platform because the comments were located next to the place they wanted to comment on.

It is clear that choosing the right tool is essential. Digitally mediated communication is just that: highly mediated.

 

Discussions in Claned

In Claned we have chosen to put discussions alongside the learning materials. You can tag any part of a video or highlight any text in content, and tag comments that specific point in the article. Notifications alert and direct users to the location of learning material for anyone following a discussion. The discussions build in the margins of any learning material engaging learners with the content.

The feedback from our users is similar to what Sun and Gao reported: learners create more spontaneous comments and there is more discussion. Furthermore, skilled educators have come up with ways to use the contextual discussion feature to engage their learners. You can easily instruct learners on what to pay attention to when going through your materials. This lets you guide discussions on topics that are important for the learning program.

Interested in learning more about Claned learning platform? Do you want to know how to make your online learning more engaging?

Email us at info@claned.com.

About the Author

Dr Topi Litmanen worked as a Chief Educational Scientist in Claned Group. He was responsible for ensuring, that the pedadgogical aspects of Claned are based on evidence based learning research.


Creating engagement with social learning

Your learners are social by nature. Utilize it to make your courses more engaging.

Providing meaningful social features is a key ingredient for engagement in any online service – let alone in a learning service. Almost anyone who is using the internet has some experience with social media and has connected with other people or content when using it. Although the web around us is highly social, it is hardly leveraged in online learning. In this blog, I will give you examples of how to make your courses more social and engaging, for optimal learning results.

 

Let’s enable social learning

Normally, in online learning environments, you will find deserted or heated discussion forums. Even if there is engagement, not all discussions are alike.

There is a difference between trivial comments and rigorous argumentation. Just having a discussion for the sake of having it is not a good goal – it should be used to leverage learning. You can do a lot with well-designed assignments, but a learner-centric platform has an effect as well and delivers real results.

 

Let’s create engagement

When creating engaging online courses the beginning of it is always important – it is the first impression your learners will get. To make the participants feel welcome and more comfortable in collaborating with each other, you should put effort into the introductions. At the beginning of the course, ask your participants to introduce themselves. An easy way to get all participants to introduce themselves is to ask learners to do it while watching an introduction video or reading an introduction document.

If you want your participants to put more effort into their introductions, you can design it to be an assignment. Make them describe their background and prior experience with the topic. Or if you want, you can ask them to do short videos about themselves. Once the participants have all uploaded their introductions, encourage them to leave comments on their peers’ intro videos.

 

Let’s initiate collaboration

One way to make your current materials more engaging for learners is to think about possible collaborative tasks participants could do while studying. Instead of just reading or watching a video, you can ask them to actively work and explicate their prior conceptions, experiences, and views. Contextual discussion within a document has clear benefits: The discussions are more active and spontaneous.

 

Let’s encourage participation

It is not enough to design collaborative content to spark engagement. You also need to be there for your learners. As an instructor, you can provide opportunities for learners to show their knowledge to others and highlight active contributors. Remember to encourage participation and constructive criticism and discussions, not only continuous fact-checking. Lead with an example, share, and participate and give positive feedback to all those who share.

When designing for collaboration, try not to create rigidly scheduled processes of collaborative learning. Learners will end up feeling rushed into having an opinion or coming up with too many comments. Avoid negative highlighting and punishment for inactivity as these methods rarely create an engaging and safe environment for collaboration.

 

Let’s enhance your courses

If all this seems new to you, keep calm and consider seeking assistance from people who have more experience in social online learning. This way you can avoid the most common pitfalls and benefit from the lessons learned by others. The fact that you want to create more user-friendly and socially engaging courses means that you are already on the right track.

 

P.S. We have created workshops especially to help our customers to tackle the challenges in social learning. You can contact support@claned.com and we will help you make your courses more social.

About the Author

Dr Topi Litmanen worked as a Chief Educational Scientist in Claned Group. He was responsible for ensuring, that the pedadgogical aspects of Claned are based on evidence based learning research.


How to create a successful online course business?

When companies start looking for online learning solutions, there are a few guidelines that will help them avoid common pitfalls and solutions that are not good for their needs.

The two main reasons for our clients to buy an online learning platform are the pressure from their customers and the desire to scale up their business. Their customers are demanding opportunities to study where ever and whenever as face to face courses are harder to fit in their tight schedules. Online courses are also an excellent way for training companies to scale up their course business globally.

When businesses start comparing different learning platforms, they sometimes lack the information and knowledge needed to make well-justified decisions. The first pitfall is to blindly get a platform someone in the company has used before. It might feel more comfortable to get started with that kind of solution, but in the long run, the platform you choose must match your business model.

Another pitfall is to get something for the sake of being able to offer online courses to customers. There a lot of quality courses available, so if you decide to start creating online courses, you need to make sure they are of high quality. At least if you wish to attract customers and not just spend your surplus at budget year-end.

The first thing to consider is the role online learning will play in your business model and what are your objectives related to online courses.  If your goal is to have online courses in your offering to be “up to date,” any of the existing online learning platforms will work fine. However, if your objective is to offer learning as a service, get good customer reviews and scale your business you need to dig deeper.

At the moment there are over 700 different learning platforms available, so it is by no means easy to find your way through the jungle. My advice is to look for more than just a learning platform provider. Get a partner who, in addition to providing you with a learning platform, can help you to understand your potential and solve the challenges in your course production.  Your partner should be an expert in online pedagogy and know the best practices. Make sure your partner will have answers to at least these questions:

  1. Can you help us identify what works and what does not work?
  2. How can you help us improve our courses?
  3. How would you support us in our course production?

So how should your potential partner answer these questions? Your partner should have a clear understanding of online pedagogics and how to conduct course digitalization. They should know how to help you open the black box of learning with data and meaningful learning analytics. In short, your partner needs to understand the eLearning business as a whole.

Another critical factor in scaling up your business is to invest in marketing. According to my experiences, this is where many go wrong.  It doesn’t matter if you have the best course if not enough people know about it. You need to know your target segments, have your SEO right, hone your marketing content to and pick proper channels. You might have someone in-house to help you with this, and if not, you need to get an outside expert to plan for you. However, be sure not to skip this step if your goal is to scale.

Our mission is to help you produce the best online learning experiences and maximize your return on investment. That’s why we create lasting partnerships

 

Ready to make your online course business successful? Feel free to email us at sales@claned.com and let’s succeed together.

About the Author

Petri Virtanen works as a Chief Commercial Officer in Claned Group. Petri is spear-heading Claned’s global growth by developing our commercial operations, including marketing, sales, and partner network. As a devoted believer in life-long learning, Petri thinks that every day is a good day to learn something new.


Pedagogical scripting is the backbone of learning success

When you know why you are producing the course for and you know your learners, it is still not the time to produce any content yet. Instead, you need to create a pedagogical script to guide the content and course production. “Well planned is half done” applies here, too.

A pedagogical script is a project plan for your course production build on insights about the learners, the learning outcomes, and evaluation criteria.  Without a clear course flow, purposefully selected contents, and  meaningful learning activities, your learners won’t know what will be expected of them and won’t perform as well as they could.

When designing learning activities, course creators should keep in mind that learners have plenty of real-life experiences in their pockets. Utilize this and make your course as directly meaningful to your learners as possible. By applying what is learned or by utilizing real-life experiences in social knowledge construction (building knowledge together with fellow learners around a particular  topic) you  can enable the famous transfer effect – your learners will start using what they learn in real-life situations as well.  This helps your learners to see the impacts and benefits of participating in your course in a very concrete way.

To help course creators with this task, Claned has created Learning Design Program (step-by-step pedagogical templates and workshops)  for this purpose. This way you don’t have to be an educational expert, but you can still construct your course flow and its content in a way that supports learning and the learning experience optimally.

Your course has now a pedagogical structure and a purpose with defined learning outcomes. Now you need to make sure your learners understand them, too. You need to  explain to your learners how you intend the course content to be studied, what kind of materials and tasks you have included, what is the timeline for the course, what are the evaluation criteria for this course, and so forth. By explaining and showing your learners how you want them to behave, you are much more likely to receive that kind of  behavior, too.  This kind of prediction helps to increase motivation and prevent feelings of frustration.

The last thing to remember before creating a top-notch service experience for your learners is to allocate enough time and human and monetary resources for your production. Do not think that you can just transform your classroom content into online courses directly, cross your fingers, and hope for the best. You need to put your mind to the course production and maybe even search for a trustworthy partner to steer you to the final line. Online learning has arrived to stay, and we can help your courses become the most desirable ones.

If you are interested in our hands-on learning workshops for creating successful online courses, email us at support@claned.com

About the Author

Solja Sulkunen works as Head of Customer Experience in Claned Group creating the best possible learning experience for all Claned users. She ensures everyday fast and easy deployment of the platform for our new users.


Why does service design matter when creating online courses?

Service design has been on everyone’s lips for a while now. Companies are not selling only products anymore, instead they are selling services and experiences with or without involving a physical  product. When producing digital courses learners are expecting more than just being able to access courses online. They are hoping to gain additional value that they can channel into their professional or private lives.

 

Adding value to online learning with service design

Service design in online learning is about designing the whole learning process through the learners’ eyes from the moment learner becomes aware of your course to the moment they have completed it, and even after. To be able to create high-quality learning service, educators and course providers need to rethink how their learning programs benefit the learners, and in what kind of world do they live in.

For us at Claned, this is the mindset we have when assisting our customers in creating successful learning experiences and thus tangible value for their organizations.

Companies  producing the courses often tend to concentrate on the commercial advantages they gain instead of taking their learners’ perspectives. Because online learning is still in its infancy, some easy wins can be made just by relying on heavy marketing and sales. However, as the quality and understanding of best practices in an online setting improve,  and competition increases, the overall experiences of learners and their reviews become more and more critical. So, if you want to succeed in the long run, start paying more attention to your end-customers now.

 

Delivering more valuable learning experiences to learners

Let’s start by paying more attention to what your learners want and how to deliver it to them? You can start by understanding the problems or questions your learners are hoping to solve during  or with the help of your course. Define your learning outcomes based on these needs and use them as the backbone of your course. Remember that a strong learning outcome is not “Participants have learned  x, y, z” because the verb “learn” it’s too vague and thus difficult to measure. A suitable learning outcome is a statement about what the learners will be able to DO after completing a learning unit i.e. “Participants can describe and reason two impacts of human behavior to climate change”. The objective is now specific, measurable, and observable.

Once you have your outcomes figured out, you dive in further to your learners’ worlds e.g. through existing research materials or direct questionnaires. Who are they? How do they spend their average day?  When do they study? How skilled are they with technological tools and devices? What motivates them in their professional and private lives? This way you learn to understand your customers better and how to engage them.

If you are not able to get this information directly from your customers by asking or observing them, there is an alternative: learning analytics with relevant insights for supporting successful learning outcomes. Our customers use Claned learning analytics to know which topics interest learners and to understand their studying habits better, for example. This approach helps them improve their course offerings.

If you are interested in our hands-on learning workshops for creating successful online courses, email us at support@claned.com

About the Author

Solja Sulkunen works as Head of Customer Experience in Claned Group creating the best possible learning experience for all Claned users. She ensures everyday fast and easy deployment of the platform for our new users.


Simple secrets of great learning videos

Today, a big part of the media that we consume is in video format and they are proven to engage learners effectively. Videos are easy to follow and watch even on-the-go. While video does not work in every situation, it is a winning format for delivering learning content today due to its ability to combine pictures, text, and sound. However, for many of us, creating learning videos can feel slightly an overwhelming, even intimidating task.

Not to worry, our team has bundles of experience in creating pedagogically optimal learning videos and we want to share some of our cool tool and production tips with you. So, let’s get started and discover simple ways to create something engaging but effective for your learners.

 

PowerPoint

Wait, but isn’t PowerPoint just a classroom presentation tool? Surprisingly, this familiar tool has many more features and gives you an easy option to make your first learning video.

PowerPoint has an option to record your slideshow and add narration and even draw to your slides. PowerPoint offers very good options to use transitions and animate the content on each slide so that the actual video won’t be just static slides.

You should also think about how much information you want to stuff into the screen at once so that the learner can focus on either the text or narration. Even it might feel tempting to do, don’t just record all 40 slides of your presentation — longer presentations like that work best in their original format. Instead, try breaking up your long presentations into shorter ones with specific topical focus per presentation. This way learners have a better chance to grasp the essence of your key messages and stay focused.

 

Lumen5

If building animations and turning your PowerPoint presentations into educational videos feels a bit overwhelming Lumen5 service might be just for you.

Lumen5 uses Artificial Intelligence to create videos from text automatically. Your text can be an existing website,  document or you can type the text straight into the Lumen5 editor. From there, Lumen5 will animate and add pictures that fit the context!

Furthermore, Lumen5 understands to keep the amount of text on the screen at an appropriate length and helps you to create a nice flow to your video. This works well when you are creating a short introductory type video to deliver a small bite-size amount of information. Additionally, with Lumen5 you can give an assignment for learners to do a video.

You can try the service for free first, and if you are happy with it, Lumen5 offers subscription options to use the full potential of the platform.

 

Adobe Connect

Sometimes you just want to provide a recording of a lecture to your learners to watch it later on. For this simple need, Adobe Connect works well. You can upload your recording afterward to YouTube or Vimeo and add it to your learning areas for learners to add comments to the video.

 

Recording your screen for tutorials and instructions

For OSX, QuickTime provides an easy out-of-box screen recording option. Similarly, for Windows, there is ActivePresenter available with features to record your screen. These tools allow you to capture your screen for easy editing later on and also to record audio through the microphone.

Besides these free options, there are non-free options to choose from like Camtasia. It offers the ability to record screen and edit the material comfortably and intuitively. This works well if you intend to do tutorial or instruction videos. Generally, screen recording requires some editing afterward. This allows you to add text and other highlights to increase its value.

If you have plenty of time in your hands and want to learn to edit videos properly, you could take a look at some of these cool free software: HitFilm Express, DaVinci Resolve, OpenShot, or iMovie.

 

Take your videos to the next level!

Hopefully, you are starting to feel a bit more confident about using videos in your online courses by now. So, let’s next look into different ways to elevate the quality of your learning videos further.

Here are some useful tips for you:

  • Sound: If you have audio on your video, make sure it’s clear. Using an external microphone you will significantly improve the quality of sound. Almost any external microphone will beat the quality of your laptop’s microphone. This makes the listening experience more pleasant to your learner, instead of hindering the actual learning.
  • Captions: Consider adding captions to your video if it’s in a foreign language. Also, if your content is likely to be viewed when commuting, captions are much appreciated.
  • Camera stand: If you are filming yourself, use a stand. It allows you to focus on speaking and performing instead of holding the camera. This will also help your videos achieve more professional final quality.
  • Background music: A heavy, text-based video, could benefit from background music. You can search for CC-licensed music from FreeMusicArchive.
  • Additional material: There is also a lot more CC-licensed material available for you to use in your content. You can read more from CreativeCommons.org about different licenses and resources.

 

Content creation partners

Now you are ready to produce some cool learning videos. However, if you know what you need or have great ideas for learning videos, but your time and resources are limited, using a content creation partner might be a solution.

Your excellent pedagogical script or material can quickly be turned into a video, a presentation, or a document by an experienced third-party organization. Using this kind of service saves you time and money. Instead, you can focus on marketing and delivering your professionally produced courses with your brand touch and feel included. The investment into professional production can spin ROI immediately, as the content is usable again and again.

Let’s start creating some amazing learning videos!

If you don’t have a content creation partner to work with yet, send me an email to teemu.vaalasmaa@claned.com, and let’s discuss how we can help you to make your learning videos effective and engaging.

Teemu Vaalasmaa

Teemu is passionate about e-learning and technology in general. He helps customers to succeed in using Claned platform.


Fostering connectivity and engagement in online learning

Fostering connectivity and engagement in online learning – how to do it and why should you even care? 

A rapid movement from live education to online versions is a big leap. Organization HR, teachers, education providers, trainers, you name it, are making huge efforts in forming online course scripts, allocating relevant existing materials, producing new ones in a speed of light, writing instructions, and designing assignments and evaluation criteria, just to name a few. Training programs and courses should’ve been active yesterday, employees and students are already waiting, and organizations are expecting to scale up and smoothen their operations already in this quartal, whether we talk about corporates, training companies, SME’s, educational institutions or NGO’s. Especially currently, during the COVID-19 crisis, things are crazy and transformation fast. There is a danger that this anxiety, insecurity, hurry, and even stress are unwantedly transferred to the otherwise so amazing online courses and training. The important question is, how can you overcome this?  

 

Viivi Pentikäinen a CEO and training program leader from Positive Education experienced first-hand this rapid and, according to her own words, even unpleasant change of moving from live training to online programs. She has always believed in people coming together, connecting personally, sharing their thoughts and feelings, and experiencing the feeling of being together, a team, a community. But she, too, had to bow in front of COVID-19 and figure out how to adjust her business to the new order of the world.

“There was no choice left but to start transferring our materials, training programs and learning to an online format. Of course, the first versions of our training programs were pretty much hard-wired, not so pretty, but we made it. We were able to get our content online and keep running our training programs. For us, the most important thing, as well as a concern, was to figure out how to help learners to maintain the feeling of social connectivity as a group as well as a sense of well-being even when studying online. Another thing that we paid a lot of attention to was to figure out how to build and maintain a safe learning environment and encourage dialogue in an online environment. These are things our training are known and praised for, in addition to the quality of content, and what our customers kept in high value.” Viivi says that she sighed from relief and even wrote in social media about it when she got customer feedback thanking Positive Education for being able to create such a warm and welcoming, inspirational atmosphere in their online learning environment.  

 

So, what did Viivi and Positive Education do right?

Here are some tips on how to create a safe and encouraging atmosphere for your online course environment and how to ensure the feeling of social connectivity even when studying online.  

1) People first – Social connections are a must! For Positive Education it is important that people know each other and trusts each other when they learn together. They use online live sessions actively for strengthening the social connectivity of the group, not so much for teaching new content and without very intense learning objectives. They have assignments over which learners can get to know each other, share ideas, and team up. “We had people call a study partner from the group and just chat how everyone was feeling at the beginning of the learning modules as a way to add social connectivity at the beginning of each module,” Viivi says.  

2) Good instructions with a personalized message create a safe learning environment. Remember that not everybody is used to or comfortable studying online. For some people just logging on to a new platform might cause anxiety and negative feelings that in turn make learning not optimal. Good instructions and welcoming introductory videos on how the learning process will unfold provide people with a safe feeling because now they know what is coming and how to proceed. Also, a personalized greeting from the teacher to the learners give a sense that the learners are important and that the teacher is “walking with them” on the study path. “I am terrible at following instructions and impatient if I don’t understand something right away which makes me pretty good at writing instructions because I make them SO clear that even I would understand them!” Viivi laughs.  

3) Take breaks, recovery, and wellbeing seriously. With live training, there are a lot of things that enhance wellbeing that is not present when studying online. In live training, most people get energy from social interaction, discussions, and even coffee breaks during the teaching sessions. It is important to include restorative practices, breaks, and wellbeing sessions such as mindfulness moments to an online learning experience to strengthen wellbeing and energy levels during the study time.  

4) You get learning engagement by engaging people. A successful online learning experience is one where the learner feels engaged during the learning process and completes the learning tasks. If the learning experience is not engaging people drop out. So, to get more engagement you need to involve and engage people in the learning process personally. A good way is to ask questions, add personal reflections and commentary assignments, and utilize activating, emotional hooks to catch the learners’ attention.  

5) Use humor and activate positive emotions as much as possible! Humor and sharing of positive emotions connect people. Laughter clears out the tension and anxiety and is often created together when teams feel secure enough. It is a good idea to use laid back wordings in your instructions, materials, and assignments and smile during video conferences. Laughing about your own mistakes and showing your learners that even though learning might not always be so fun, you can still have fun in your learning group, are essential in helping your learners relax, too. Or why not share jokes at the beginning of the zoom-session?

“Here is one of our favorite shared to me by my son: “Most students know that pressing the control+f4 key is used to exit a game or a meeting. So, when teachers ask students for advice on, for example, how to get the brightness up or the camera on, be aware of the reply is: …just press the control+f4! – bye-bye, teacher!”  

 

So, what do you think? Have you remembered to include elements to your online courses that foster social connectivity, dialogue, feelings of togetherness, and make the environment psychologically safe and engaging?

Not to worry if this has been forgotten during all the hassle, you have plenty of time and iterations to start doing small changes and additions, one by one. And of course, we are happy to help!

Our mini course on the topic will be out for purchasing already this spring. If you are interested, contact us at info@claned.com to be the first one to get it. 

About the Author

Solja Sulkunen works as Head of Customer Experience in Claned Group creating the best possible learning experience for all Claned users. She ensures everyday fast and easy deployment of the platform for our new users.


A buyer’s cheat sheet to UX in online learning platforms

Perhaps the biggest unknown factor when choosing an online learning platform for your organization, is whether people will actually use it or not. And beyond that: will they like it and find it useful? These are questions of user experience (often abbreviated as UX). When making decisions, this topic is a beast of a problem, as it is equal parts vague and important.

We often see buyers and evaluators try to evaluate the user experience of a learning platform during the purchasing process, but this usually leads to platitudes and hand-waving instead of useful information. As a UX person, I have insight into getting the answers you are looking for in order to make good decisions. This is your hands-on guide to get those answers

 

Why UX matters when selecting a learning platform

First things first. Why should you care about UX?

Whatever term you choose to signify the user experience of a learning platform (we often see intuitiveness, usability, ease of use, perceived value and end-user value used as rough synonyms); the effects on your business are the same.

Good user experience in the platform will positively affect:

  • How much the platform is used (which is good, unless you are billed by the amount of usage :))
  • How likely learners are to persist until the end of your course
  • How likely learners are to recommend your services to others
  • How likely learners are to make additional purchases

In a nutshell, learners and educators will not separate the learning platform from your content and pedagogical design as a matter of experience, so don’t waste your investments into content and pedagogy with a bad learning platform choice.

 

Good metrics

Okay, so what data should you collect and how?

Piloting with a representative population of learners and educators, even at a small scale, is by far the best way to tell if the product is a good fit. When piloting, try to actually utilize the new affordances created by the platform, don’t just copy over the existing learning process. You wouldn’t buy a car without driving it first and when you drive it, you would also try the features that your current car doesn’t have.

Collect feedback on the overall experience as well as pain-points and actually use those to inform your decision. We see organizations that try learning platforms, in the end, disregard the end user feedback. We recommend asking specifically about the following factors.

  • Do they understand how to use the platform? (measures perceived ease of use)
  • Do they feel they trust the platform? ( measures perceived trustworthiness)
  • Do they feel they have the necessary skills and information to use the platform? (measures perceived capability)
  • Do they feel the platform is useful? (measures perceived usefulness)
  • Do they like the platform? (measures enjoyment and attitude)

These questions have been proven to be good predictors of use in e-learning systems.

 

Shortcuts

Of course, piloting and user tests are not always possible for the usual reasons (money or time constraints). These questions will give you some indication of the UX-focus of the learning platform provider. The questions are intentionally concrete, in order to create as little wiggle room for ambiguous answers as possible.

Ask about the ratio of designers to developers in the product team. In a UX-focused team, you should have a ratio of no more than 1:5 (designer: developer) and of course, the more designers the better (to a point, but we rarely see the opposite issue). If there are combined roles (like a UX developer) count those as half. Front end developers should almost never be considered design resources, save for some unicorns.

Ask how many updates were made to the product during the last year. In a truly agile and user-focused team, you should have no less than 5 major updates per year. Size does not replace frequency here. When counting, disregard bug fixes and security updates if you have release notes available. Make sure you will get continuous updates after the purchase, instead of being stuck with whatever version you buy.

Ask about overall end user feedback from organizations similar to your own. Ask the prospective provider to provide some statistics, not quotes or testimonials. Especially good is to get an idea about the customers’ and users’ willingness to recommend the product. Results from formal usability tests are also a good indicator but are rarely available.

 

Bad metrics

There are, of course, many pitfalls and seemingly good questions that don’t really have anything to do with what you are trying to measure. Here are some common fallacies:

The number of matching feature bullet points has little to do with how useful the product is when it’s actually used. The added value will be created in a dialogue between the user’s needs and the opportunities the platform creates, these are not separate phenomena. Feature lists are important, but they should not trump results in real user testing.

Asking about the design approach is too vague. There’s too much wiggle room here, any team can claim to be user-centered, mobile first, agile lean and whatever else is the hot topic now.

Crude usability metrics, such as the number of clicks required to navigate to any point in the product, are minuscule parts of the bigger picture. These are definitely a part of the user experience, but should not be mistaken to indicate it as a whole.

First impressions of people who are not representatives of end users (i.e. learners or educators). IT experts and administrators have important insight into the process, but can’t be expected to predict the experience of a different kind of person.

 

Red flags during the sales process

Here are some worrying behaviors we sometimes see from representatives of platforms where the user experience has been an afterthought. These should help you weed out the worst choices from a UX standpoint.

When asking about user experience, pedagogy or end-user feedback, the discussion is directed back to a “more substantive” topic, such as administration, infrastructure, pricing or information security.

The sales deck has no real content about learner experience or pedagogical affordances created by the product a few buzzwords that don’t correspond to any features you see in the product demo.

Requiring a sizeable commitment and investment before being able to do a pilot or trial project with the platform.

 

TL;DR

Trying a prospective learning platform in a real scenario with actual learners and educators is the way to go, if at all possible. If this isn’t possible, ask concrete questions about feedback from learners, their design staff and their product development schedule with little as little wiggle room and interpretation as possible.

Hopefully, this UX cheat sheet is useful to you! Let us know if you have other useful tips or insight?

 

Relevant sources

Lee, Y. H., Hsieh, Y. C., & Chen, Y. H. (2013). An investigation of employees’ use of e-learning systems: applying the technology acceptance model. Behaviour & Information Technology, 32(2), 173-189.

Šumak, Boštjan & Hericko, Marjan & Pušnik, Maja. (2011). A meta-analysis of e-learning technology acceptance: The role of user types and e-learning technology types. Computers in Human Behavior. 27. 2067–2077. 10.1016/j.chb.2011.08.005.

Zaharias, Panagiotis. (2009). Comprehensive Usability Design in the context of e-Learning: A Framework augmenting ‘traditional’ usability constructs with instructional design and motivation to learn. International Journal of Technology and Human Interaction. 5. 37-59.

About the Author

Miska Noponen worked as a user experience and concept development lead in Claned Group. He is a multi-talented UX designer, ardent pedagogue, computer programmer and lifelong learner.


Three key benefits to demand from learning analytics

The best thing about learning analytics is that it sheds light on issues surrounding learning usually hidden from the naked eye. That is, it provides ways to peek into the details of the learning process. More importantly, analytics provides new ground for evidence-based learning interventions without taking away the need for a skilled educator but instead highlights the importance of pedagogical expertise.

Education is largely different from many other fields, which have been revolutionized by data. As it is largely related to human interaction, decision making will remain in the hands of skilled educators. Learning analytics do not offer fixes. Instead, using it provides an effective way of improving educational programs and making effective interventions. And the impact of analytics is directly linked with the quality of analytics that you have access to. So, if you are about to invest in a new learning environment that promises analytics, or you already receive analytical views into the training process, let’s ask some critical questions on what matters most in learning analytics.


Can I increase the engagement in my course?

The most crucial problem in online learning relates to the frustration when facing ambiguous challenges and getting stuck. Too often this is caused by a confusing or unsuitable learning passage that can hamper even the best course.

In order to take corrective action, learning analytics should provide a way of highlighting the sections of a course, which are challenging. On the other hand, analytics should also show which parts work and create engagement.

Additionally, you should be able to identify the challenges faced by the whole learner population or just or particular groups of learners. Thanks to automatic keywording of materials using natural language processing, in addition to single materials, you should have the option of viewing this at a topic level. For example, which of the central themes in a course are problematic.

So, after setting the initial question and goal, in this case, engagement, learning analytics can highlight the sections in need of a fix and what works already. This offers the basis for identifying the target of improvements and measuring the effects afterward. However, no technology does or will do the actual work of designing appropriate learning activities. But with the support of analytics, the content iteration will be more successful.


Can I personalize my course for different kinds of learners?

Learners are different. They have varying amounts of experience, different strengths, and diverse interests. Some might find your course too easy while others are struggling. Just how different are they and where they differ is up for the learning analytics to reveal.

Learning analytics should be designed to identify groups of participants or individuals with specific needs or challenges. As the analytics can identify distinctions in behavioral patterns, you can focus on how these relate to performance, quality of social interaction, and background variables, such as a professional role in a company.

Once you have been able to identify the differences between learners, you can provide tailored paths based on their interests and background. For example, by offering background information for those with less experience in a topic, or alternatively more advanced information for those that need more challenge.

You should be able to intertwine groups from two different backgrounds by first providing a path for each to prepare them for the subject,  and then offer a shared part where they can share their knowledge. Imagine, all this with the help of effective learning analytics using your existing materials.


Can I see whether my training programs increase work effectiveness?

Whether you work in a company offering training programs or responsible for courses inside an organization, the holy grail is showing the real impact of training. That is, how does the actual performance change as a result of training.

An example of an industry transformed by data is finance, an area that naturally lends itself well to smart technologies. It has clear metrics and outcomes. As a result, algorithms which optimize the desired outcomes can do their magic. Learning, on the other hand, is another story.

In a learning process, the affecting factors, nature of the information, or collected data, and even the results are not easily defined. However, this is slowly changing as more developed technologies, such as natural language processing can make sense of sets of unstructured data.

However, combining learning data with performance indicators it is possible to reveal what kind of impact the training programs are producing. These outcome metrics can include customer service, sales, or other measurable results. For education providers, the possibility to finally show what they can deliver through their training programs is now within their reach and will soon distinguish the best in the business.


Arm yourself with goal-oriented analytics

When we started our journey in developing Claned, we wanted to invent the new standard for learning analytics and how it provides the ability to support successful training programs. In order to do this, we had to create the best learning analytics in the business. And we did, and it is now available to enhance training programs anywhere. We believe the investment into learning platforms should contain a clear view of ROI, for example, through the number of drop-out rates, improved learning results, employee satisfaction, and improved sales.

We believe the use of learning analytics should relate to your training goals from the start.

That is why, in Claned, we focus on two main ways of using learning analytics to help education providers. Our learning platform holds inbuilt analytics for real-time follow-up on an education program level. These you will have for any course implemented in the platform. Secondly, we offer tailored data consultation services to answer specific challenges. Evidence-based decisions and personalization according to gathered analytics can significantly help you improve the experience for your learners.

If you want to hear more about how we can help you to achieve new heights of success for your training programs, get in touch and we tell you more.

About the Author

Dr Topi Litmanen worked as a Chief Educational Scientist in Claned Group. He was responsible for ensuring, that the pedadgogical aspects of Claned are based on evidence based learning research.