Preparing your organisation for AI supported learning

Supporting learning with data is a process of using analytics to empower learning and making decisions based on data-backed evidence.

Smart new technologies, such as machine learning and data mining have made significant progress in recent years, and their impact is growing in many areas of life. The finance sector is a prime example of how data and machine learning are used to optimise business processes. The field of finance naturally lends itself to data. It runs on clear metrics and has precise targets for optimisation.

Organisational learning, on the other hand, is an example of a field with varied goals and fuzzy data. That is the main reason, the area of learning has largely been lacking analytics and data-powered decision making. However, technological developments are reaching a stage in which these obstacles can be overcome.

HR has a natural position to becoming a true leader in digital learning. This transition has started, and it will gain strength with time. The phases and tools of the process are described in Graph 1 and explained in the following text.

Graph 1. The phases of leading learning with data  

Scattered data
The data is already here, but where exactly?  

Most organisations already collect and hold massive amounts of learning related data. Digital platforms, online courses, tests, competence appraisals, self-reports, education feedbacks, and other similar systems produce a wealth of information. One of the key challenges is that data is located in multiple unlinked systems. To use this data, one needs to derive it from various sources and combine it manually. As a result, HR is left with periodically producing one-off reports with cross-sectional analyses about the current state of affairs.

Manual reporting, even if partially automated to reduce the amount of work, is not real-time. It focuses on a pre-selected set of explicit variables and is rudimentary and lacks the possibilities for insights compared to more present-day solutions.

 

Combined data and dashboards

Once an organisation combines its databases or builds interfaces for that purpose, more efficient data-enabled learning can begin to commence. Combining the learning management system, educational data, competency evaluations performance data brings insight into how all of these relate to one another. Ideally, this information is presented in a simple dashboard providing real-time analytics about learning and development. It can bring insights into where learners are spending time, what they are engaged in and what seem to be the evident obstacles for development. Correlating the educational variables with business results, such as sales data, provides ways to explore the progress and effects of specific programs or interventions.

For the most part, dashboards are still constrained with human deficiencies in decision making. They only show what they are planned to show. We are inclined to focus on the explicit relations between the most obvious variables. Many of the implicit reasons between causes and effects are hidden from a human investigator.

 

Predictive insights

Even with the ill-defined datasets related to learning and development, advancement in natural language processing and image recognition allow algorithms to make sense of contents and contexts in materials. That is, they can mine the data points for meaningful correlations that often escape the naked eye, such as finding relations between implicit, hidden variables, and draw on historical data and decisions within the organisations. They lack some of the pitfalls compared to human decision making and can outperform even most experienced human practitioners. An effective way to gain insights into learning data is merging the desired outcomes, such as sales results or customer feedback with the usage patterns in a learning platform. This highlights effectiveness of different ways of engaging with the learning possibilities offered by an organisation. The information can then be used to adjust the learning programs for future learners.

These systems can be assigned to identify learners who are not participating, or whose skills are in danger of lagging behind. They can also highlight some of the knowledge gaps or strengths within an organisation. In parallel with helping HR professionals, the same algorithms can be harnessed to serve the learners. Indeed, the next level of learning systems is that which can make accurate recommendations for learners, educators, and HR.

 

Dynamic, actionable recommendations

Web stores and social media are effective in making interpretations about our interests and recommending us products or services that appeal to us. This same technology can be applied to support learning. This enables an organization to deliver truly tailored recommendations for ‘just-in-time‘ learning and personalised training programs for each employee instead of fixed courses designed for the masses.

When a system has understanding about the needs, interests and learning activities of employees, it has a robust set of data to conclude from. It can recommend materials, activities and interactions to a specific learner based on identified needs. Further on, a learning platform can make accurate recommendations for future learners about which actions would be beneficial for them based on previous learners‘ activities.

The next developments in this process will be automated learning paths using materials inside an organisation and automatically providing appropriate tests to measure learning and motivation.

 

Conclusions

Digitalisation and data are not solutions to every problem. Leading with data is about developing new ways of operating. It is slow; it requires work and most of all, it requires a comprehensive understanding of current operations. The first step is recognising the current state of learning data in an organisation and designing the steps to take the process forward.

Data-driven systems do not replace effective competence management, but HR professionals that refuse to leverage available data for this purpose will be replaced by those who do.


This article was also posted on the latest EAPM Newsletter

Topi Litmanen

Dr. Topi Litmanen works as a Chief Educational Scientist in Claned Group. He is responsible for ensuring, that the pedagogical aspects of the Claned are based on latest learning research. Topi makes sure that Claned customers get the needed support for meeting their digital learning needs.

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The essence of success in online learning

The first theme of our blog posts this year has been how to succeed with your online courses. We wanted to cover different key topics to help you to build a successful online learning business and to create quality content to engage your learners.

Here are some key takeaways from each of the topic that we have covered over the last few weeks. Each headline links you to the blog posting in question. Enjoy!

How to create a successful online course business?

The series kicks off with our Chief Commercial Chief Petri Virtanen reminding us that when choosing your learning platform provider, you should also think about them as your partner. A partner, who helps you to scale your business, supports you with learning content and instructional design, and offers insights into your content helps you to build even better content.

Why does service design matter when creating online courses?

Next, Solja Sulkunen, our Head of Customer Experience, makes a great point about service design. You should always design the whole learning process from the learners’ point of view – from sign up to the certificate. The course needs to be scripted so that in each part of the course the learners know what is expected of them and how different learning activities support their learning outcomes. It is crucial to bear in mind that doing this design takes time and resources, so equip yourself accordingly or engage with a suitable partner to work with.

Creating engagement with social learning

Not only is well-scripted content essential to a successful course but as Claned’s Chief Educational Scientist Topi Litmanen reminds us in his blog, the interaction is equally important. Collaboration and active participation increases the enjoyment of the course but also improves learning results. You can read some simple design ideas from Topi’s post to enhance the interaction between learners.

Simple secrets of great learning videos

Videos are very hot content right now, but often they seem a bit difficult to produce. Not to worry,  Teemu Vaalasmaa, our Customer Success Manager, shares some insights with you! There are some great easy-to-use tools available when you want to get started with some videos of your own. Read from Teemu’s blog how you can start producing some of the video content yourself and also find out what are the benefits when using a content creation partner.

Why looks matter in learning content?

By now we have covered how to create the working course script and activate interaction But you should also pay attention to the visual quality of your course? In her blog Chief Creative Officer Virve Tamminen shares insights into why design matters and how to achieve it with some simple design choices. We are not saying that you should throw away that 32-page-long black and white PowerPoint, but yeah, we kind of are encouraging you to think about it.

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

Whilst getting your digital course content designed and structured right, it is essential for your e-learning business to choose the right learning platform, points out Head of User Experience Miska Noponen. In his blog, Miska highlights out some of the potential pitfalls and how to avoid them when choosing a  platform. The key takeaway here is that the user experience is a lot more important than a long list of feature bullets.

Three key benefits to demand from learning analytics

Analytics is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days when talking about online learning. In online learning, analytics is a lot more than just progress tracking and should provide you with some clear benefits in terms of successful learning experience and results. In this blog Dr. Topi Litmanen encourages you to think about analytics through these three key questions: Can I increase the engagement on my course? Can I personalize my course for different kinds of learners? Can I see whether my training programs increase work effectiveness?

That’s all folks!

For us, this blog series was a fun to produce. We are very passionate about what we do and happy to share our expertise and experience with you and for your benefit. If you want to know more about any of the topics we have explored in our blogs, get in touch with us and let’s discuss how can we create success for you. Our next blog series is already in making and will hopefully be as useful as this one.

 

Teemu Vaalasmaa

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

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Three key benefits to demand from learning analytics

The best thing about learning analytics is that it sheds light into 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 revolutionised 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 into 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 on 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 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 optimise the desirable 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 into 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.

Topi Litmanen

Dr Topi Litmanen works as a Chief Educational Scientist in Claned Group. He is responsible for ensuring, that the pedagogical aspects of the Claned are based on latest learning research. Topi makes sure that Claned customers get the needed support for meeting their digital learning needs.

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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:

  1. How much the platform is used (which is good, unless you are billed by the amount of usage :))
  2. How likely learners are to persist until the end of your course
  3. How likely learners are to recommend your services to others
  4. 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. 

  1. Do they understand how to use the platform? (measures perceived ease of use)
  2. Do they feel they trust the platform? ( measures perceived trustworthiness)
  3. Do they feel they have the necessary skills and information to use the platform? (measures perceived capability)
  4. Do they feel the platform is useful? (measures perceived usefulness)
  5. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 me know if you have other useful tips or insight? Send me an email at miska@clanedwebsite2.azurewebsites.net.


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.

Miska Noponen

A multi-talented UX designer, ardent pedagogue, computer programmer and lifelong learner. Miska leads Claned’s user experience and concept development.

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Why looks matter in learning content?

You could have the most professional learning content in the world, but if your visual composition isn’t well designed, it will be harder to engage your learners. Let’s give you an example.

If you just take a glance at the texts below, which one informs you faster about the overall topic of the content? Which one is easier for you to figure out and get interested in?

To make it easier for your learners to absorb the content you are offering, you should pay attention to its visual composition.

Start by thinking about your content, and what is the most important thing your learners should learn from your material? Are your learners easily able to get an idea of what your content is all about? The visual composition of your content should ideally support also learners who just want to skim the content. The “essence” of the learning materials should be obvious from the start.


Principles of Effective Visual Design

When you are building your course materials to your learners, your content and your design should be equally paid attention to, and ideally working in harmony. As you carefully choose your words, equally, You need to choose focal points for your visuals that help the learning experience delivered in the most effective way. There are some universal visual design principles that you might want to get acquainted with.

Gestalt Principles are in the Mind, Not the Eye

Gestalt principles in visual design, help users perceive the overall design as opposed to individual elements. If the design elements are arranged properly, the Gestalt of the overall design will be very clear.

The Gestalt Principles are a set of laws arising from 1920s’ psychology, describing how humans typically see objects by grouping similar elements, recognizing patterns and simplifying complex images. Designers use these to engage users via powerful -yet natural- “tricks” of perspective and best practice design standards.

The Gestalt Principles are pivotal in UX design, notably in interfaces, as users must be able to understand what they see—and find what they want—at a glance. A good example is the principles of proximity and common region, as seen in the IDF landing page, below – where colors and graphics divide the page into separate regions. Without it, users will struggle to make associations between unrelated clustered-together items and leave.

Source: (https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/topics/gestalt-principles)

 

Some useful Visual design principles:

Unity means that all elements on a page visually or conceptually belong together. The visual design must strike a balance between unity and variety to avoid a dull or overwhelming design. When creating learning materials, unity means similar concepts and themes are conceptually and visually aligned. This way the visual composition supports the learning topics.

The use of space helps reduce noise and increase readability. Use of white space (empty areas) can be a surprisingly important part of your layout strategy. So try out leaving more space between graphical elements, larger margins, and line spacing.

Hierarchy shows the difference in significance between graphical elements and signals importance visually. Hierarchies are often created through different font sizes, colors, and placement of elements on the page. So, you might make a more important element bigger and bolder than a less important element which might be smaller and fainter.

Scale is also a useful tool used to help communicate hierarchy by drawing attention toward and away from certain elements, thus signifying their importance to communication.

Contrast focuses on making items stand out by emphasizing differences in size, color, direction, and other characteristics.

Dominance focuses on having one element as the focal point and others being subordinate. This is often done through scaling and contrasting based on size, color, position, shape, etc.

Similarity refers to creating continuity throughout a design without direct duplication. The similarity, for example, in the use of colors, in the shape of elements, text styles, is used to match the different pieces visually and make them work together in a layout.

By using these universal visual design principles you can produce learning materials where the “essence” of the material will be obvious, like in the example below:

Hopefully these tips are useful to you when designing your next learning content materials. Let me know if you have any specific challenges? I would love to hear from you. Send me an email at virve@clanedwebsite2.azurewebsites.net.

Virve Tamminen

Passionate about visualization of data and information and visual design in general. Heads Claned´s branding and product design, ensuring the platform is intuitive and user centric.

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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 the 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 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 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 really 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 into 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@clanedwebsite2.azurewebsites.net 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.

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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 have 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 me at topi@clanedwebsite2.azurewebsites.net and I will help you make your courses more social.

Topi Litmanen

Dr Topi Litmanen works as a Chief Educational Scientist in Claned Group. He is responsible for ensuring, that the pedagogical aspects of the Claned are based on latest learning research. Topi makes sure that Claned customers get the needed support for meeting their digital learning needs.

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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 organisations.

Companies  producing the courses often  tend to concentrate on the commercial advantages they gain instead of taking their end-customer’s i.e. learners’ perspective. 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 end-customers 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. Suitable learning outcome is a statement about what the learners will be able to DO after completing a learning unit i.e. “Participants are able to describe and reason two impacts of human behaviour 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.

Pedagogical scripting is the backbone of learning success

Now that you know what you are producing the course for and 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 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  behaviour, 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 sales@clanedwebsite2.azurewebsites.net.

Solja Sulkunen

A deeply passionate educational psychologist and a member of a new generation of leaders in the Finnish education design ecosystem. Responsible for Claned’s customer experience, from deployment to community management.

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How to create a successful online course business?

When training 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 have 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 to 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.

Claned’s approach is to offer packages that include everything from onboarding to course production and using analytics to improve your courses. An excellent global example is our joint venture with Soprano Group. They produce and deliver learning content all over the world for teacher training, and management. Together with them, we combine the subject matter expertise, business strategies, and Claned’s pedagogical expertise.

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@clanedwebsite2.azurewebsites.net and let’s succeed together.

Petri Virtanen

Petri 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 devote believer in life-long learning, Petri thinks that, every day is a good day to learn something new.

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Learning Expert Interviews: Ulla-Maaria Koivula

Please introduce yourself and where you work.

I’m Ulla-Maaria Koivula, the founder and CEO of interactive image platform ThingLink that helps build visual learning environments in the cloud.

What about education or edtech do you think is: a) overlooked b) gets too little attention?

More than attention, education needs enough funding. It’s the most important investment we can make in the stability of our democratic system. Edtech is the tool and infrastructure angle to education, which is also important, but it should not get more attention than making sure we have enough qualified teachers and that they are fairly compensated for their work.

What’s the biggest learning-related challenge you have had at work? How have you approached/solved the challenge?

Building a company from scratch means you need to learn new things every day, and that you need to maintain the ability to learn as you gain more experience. I personally learn most from our educators and users in the ThingLink community, that’s why I feel it’s important to be present in our community group.

One important theme in learning is assessment and how it should be done. What’s your take on it? When and how assessment should be used in your opinion?

Assessment relates to the question of data; its collection, use, and ownership. Data should help the students reflect their own learning, and learners should own their data.

What is the biggest learning related challenge to solve in the next five years? Do we have the tools to solve it?

Globally, our biggest problem is lack of qualified teachers. We don’t yet have the tools to solve this, but we have ideas how we can help.

What can the world learn from Finnish learning expertise in solving future challenges? And what can Finnish education learn from others?

Some elements that make up the Finnish education system are attractive to other countries. Example of this is Finnish teacher education, and the inbuilt autonomy for teachers to improve educational practices locally through research. There are hundreds of interesting innovative practices in education across the world. The challenge is both to find them and to find the time to apply them in your own work.

If you had a magic wand that could make everyone learn 3 skills, what would those skills be? Why?

  • The skill of listening to others – for building empathy in all relationships
  • The skill of being a happy vegetarian – for cutting down carbon emissions and ending the cruelty of industrial meat production.
  • The skill of making music – for having a creative channel for self-expression

Ulla-Maaria Koivula

Ulla-Maaria Koivula is the founder and CEO of interactive image platform ThingLink that helps build visual learning environments in the cloud.

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Learning Expert Interviews: Raigo Megerild

Please introduce yourself and where you work.

I am Raigo Megerlid and I work as a business development advisor at the City of Helsinki. I am creating new services that help companies in the education sector test and develop their products at schools. My background is in teaching, so I tend to evaluate edtech companies’ business models and new technologies from a teachers’ and school administrator’s perspective.

The City of Helsinki wants to serve as a platform for companies to test and develop their products. This is truly pioneering work because there are not so many international examples where the education sector and companies collaborate in this manner.

What about education or edtech do you think is: a) overlooked b) gets too little attention?

We have completely forgotten to improve and optimize work procedures at schools. Most innovations and technologies that enter the market are designed to improve teaching and learning and are pedagogically orientated. Systems that support pedagogy have not been developed much. One still books school’s premises or devices the same way as 20 years ago and timetables are created with programmes that are outdated. Personalising is almost 100% manual work for teachers and so is assessing tests.

Systematic evaluation of new technology and its implementation gets too little attention. Emphasis on the word ’systematic’.

What’s the biggest learning-related challenge you have had at work? How have you approached/solved the challenge?

The biggest challenge is managing one’s own working hours. I believe many employees experience this. How to divide your time accordingly, how to say no when needed and trust others’ input? One can easily lose focus when one takes too many things on board and tries to make the world ready.

I am working on this challenge still and believe I will continue to do so for the rest of my career. I have actively tried to avoid telling other people I am in a hurry.  When one keeps mechanically repeating one is in a hurry it will generate the feeling of actually being in a hurry. If one’s work feels too hectic, then one’s approach to work can be rather reactive and not focused on creating new.

One important theme in learning is assessment and how it should be done. What’s your take on it? When and how assessment should be used in your opinion?

It is clear that we need both summative and formative assessment. Students and also adults need to be able to tell how good they are for example at Excel or languages. On the other hand, assessment guides learning immensely, so assessment should only be used to facilitate learning.

Learning can be examined also on a broader level than just pedagogically. How could schools learn from each other and evaluate others’ solutions and their fit to one’s own school? How could the whole education system accumulate collective assessment information from new technologies and pedagogic innovations?

What is the biggest learning related challenge to solve in the next five years? Do we have the tools to solve it?

From the perspective of an education institution the biggest challenge lies in keeping traditional and effective methods in balance with new innovations. When reform is too rapid or unclear, some teachers won’t have enough time to digest the new innovations. On the other hand, some teachers get too excited about everything that is new and forget to consider if there is any added value. Also, when the reform is too slow, schools’ reality diverges from the everyday life of students and thus school becomes irrelevant for students.

The education systems that succeed in Pisa-surveys have managed to balance the traditional teaching and the new innovations. Balance and well-designed reforms lead to better learning results. I believe we already have some tools for this but there is still a lot of pioneering work to do.

What can the world learn from Finnish learning expertise in solving future challenges? And what can Finnish education learn from others?

I feel that Finland has succeeded in balancing different aspects of studying when it comes to elementary education and high school. Our academic subjects are in balance with handicrafts and arts. Studying is in balance with resting and eating, free school meals being one example of this.

From others, Finland could learn how to systematically reform elementary education and maybe how to have a clearer vision.  Many European countries seem to have a clear and nation-wide vision and they take determined steps in realising it. A positive exception is Finland’s new tutor teacher network that has a clear vision and concrete steps to make it work.

If you had a magic wand that could make everyone learn 3 skills, what would those skills be? Why?

All the three skills would definitely be soft skills. First one would be empathy, then self-regulation and thirdly, networking. The significance of these skills in both private and work life will not diminish in the future and mastering these skills will increase achievement and the feeling of success at work.

I chose these skills because learning these skills, in my opinion, is more difficult than for example mastering a coding language, learning how to play a violin or how to change the oil in your car. The latter ones can be learnt later in life with the help of YouTube. The soft skills I chose can only be learnt when interacting with other people and the mistakes one makes while learning them will inevitably affect other people. Thus, we should provide as many opportunities as possible to learn these skills already at school.

Raigo Megerild

Raigo Megerlid works as a business development advisor at the City of Helsinki. He is creating new services that help companies in the education sector test and develop their products at schools.

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Learning Expert Interviews: Jan Hermes

Please introduce yourself and where you work.  

My name is Jan Hermes, I work as an assistant professor at Oulu Business School, University of Oulu, in Finland.  

What about education or edtech do you think is: a) overlooked b) gets too little attention?  

With growing numbers of students and, at the same time, reduced resources to take care of students I, as a teacher, feel that we lose contact and important, individual time with our students.

What’s the biggest learning-related challenge you have had at work? How have you approached/solved the challenge?  

Maybe not the biggest, but definitely one big challenge is to personalize learning enabling all students to learn according to their preferences and preconditions. I am increasing the offering of learning paths and solutions, which poses new challenges with regards to available resources. 

One important theme in learning is assessment and how it should be done. What’s your take on it? When and how should assessments be used in your opinion?  

Assessment is ideally an ongoing process, starting with diagnostic forms and ending with summative assessments. 

What is the biggest learning related challenge to solve in the next five years? Do we have the tools to solve it?  

I see an increasing pace in digitalization to create challenges for teachers to “keep up” with those developments. In order to reach students, I need to be informed about technological solutions in order to speak my students’ language. 

What can the world learn from Finnish learning expertise in solving future challenges? And what can Finnish education learn from others?  

Looking at Finnish innovativeness and bravery in implementing those innovations might be inspiring for others. Likewise, we should constantly be interested in what is happening in terms of educational development elsewhere. 

If you had a magic wand that could make everyone learn 3 skills, what would those skills be? Why?  

Analyticity, criticality and mindfulness. These are skills that will open the door to properly solving any intellectual challenge.  

Jan Hermes

Jan Hermes is an assistant Professor at Oulu University. His research and teaching activities are targeted at showing how social and ecological goals are not only necessary add-ons in today’s business but can serve as the core for financially sustainable, socially fair and ecologically friendly business activities.

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