Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Blended E-Learning, F2F, and Mobile Learning in Banking

New developments in e-learning are enabling corporations to find new ways to train and support employees to enhance the organization’s effectiveness, efficiency, productivity, and profitability.

As a result, the nature of training has changed. Instead of being considered a one-time event to be completed upon hiring, training is now viewed by the organization as continuous, ongoing, and flexible. Further, in an environment that requires offices and people to coordinate from different parts of the globe across time zones and cultural differences, the new approaches to online training and support can assure consistency and continuity.

To illustrate, it is helpful to take a look at a case that is representative of the experiences of many banks that have made it their goal to increase value-added services in order to maximize revenue streams and to build customer loyalty.

A Success Story -- 24-7 Banking: ABC Bank wanted to offer its customers the opportunity to call in and speak to a live banking associate in order to conduct a wide range of banking functions 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. By offering this service, ABC Bank would be able to provide their best and most complex services for which they charged a fee that was, while modest, an important revenue source for the organization. In addition, they could gain new customers and assure customer loyalty.

The idea was not without risk, however. Processes and procedures constantly change, and the customers who called in would be very likely to have complicated problems, or need urgent, time-sensitive assistance.

In the past, ABC Bank was hesitant to offer the services. They realized that if their employees were not very highly trained, and did not offer the highest quality of service to their customers, the entire corporate image could be damaged. On the other hand, by being able to open accounts, research transactions, conduct transfers, work with legal documents (escrow, letters of credit, trust documents), the bank could have a significant edge over the competition.

ABC Bank wanted to make sure that 24-7 banking service employees had the same information and access to databases as those located in all the branch locations. Further, upper management wanted to make sure that if 24-7 customers had questions outside of normal business hours, the 24-7 banking center employees would be able to find accurate answers to complex questions, and to provide them in a secure environment.

Hybrid Training Solution: F2F, E-Learning, Mobile Learning

A hybrid web-based training solution and ongoing support database provided the ideal solution for the bank. The first step was to provide online content modules to enable the employees of the 24-7 banking service to obtain the training in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

The delivery of the training was of critical importance. In the past, the employees were issued a procedures manual and then asked to click through a Powerpoint presentation.

However, that would not be sufficient for 24-7 banking training because the employees would need to be able to perform more tasks. Further, a static presentation is simply ineffective for employees who have different learning styles, and who need hands-on practice, or who may be auditory or kinaesthetic learners.

Modules in a Web 2.0-friendly LMS

ABC Bank’s management decided on a multi-pronged approach. The learning modules, available on-demand , and repeatable as needed, consisted of multimedia presentations and audio presentations that could be downloaded and listened to on portable devices such as an iPod.

Using a platform such as Haiku, (http://www.haikuls.com), or Nfomedia (http://www.nfomedia.com), the courses were easy to assemble, and could incorporate Web 2.0 interactivity.

They also provided interactive practice and review, and “smart” assessments that immediately diagnosed where a learner needed further reinforcement, practice, and training. After diagnosis, the program automatically directed the learner and opened access to additional content modules.

Quizzes and Reviews Via Cellphone / Blackberry

After initial training, weekly interactive quizzes and reviews were made available. They were enjoyable and affordable – the links to content were provided via e-mail, and also appeared in an instant message in the corner of the employee’s screen.

Using software for mobile learning such as Hot Lava (http://www.hotlavasoftware.com) , it was possible to design and develop mobile learning components very quickly.

Review Documents in Repository

A repository of FAQs was made available and it utilized a very convenient key word search so that employees would have answers to their questions at their fingertips. The FAQ pages had links to the training modules so that individuals would go back and review the specific training elements as needed.

With a multi-pronged approach to e-learning, with continuous availability of content modules and support information, ABC Bank was able to launch 24-7 banking and to obtain positive feedback from customers. In addition, the volume of fee-based banking services increased dramatically, making the 24-7 banking one of the most profitable branches in the entire enterprise.

Webinar

Using Elluminate, Adobe Connect, and Webex, ABC Bank is able to bring employees together to review and update new procedures.

Virtual World Role Play

In the future, ABC Bank will expand its e-training by making it possible for employees to role-play and engage in interactive simulations. They have already developed a world in Second Life for customer service.

In the virtual world, employees design their avatars and then they practice greeting customers and make sure that they follow a certain bank-prescribed protocol or checklist of behaviors. Did they greet the customer by name? Did they offer new services? Did they explain the new services?


Leadership and Vision

By using a customized approach to e-learning and training, and integrating the new techniques and technologies to meet the unique needs of the organization, companies will enjoy the added benefits of enhanced communication across the organization. Individuals in a position of leadership will find that it is much easier to assure that employees across the organization feel a sense of commitment and personal dedication to the company mission and vision. Further, employee morale and motivation are enhanced as individuals feel empowered and eager to share ideas about how to enhance profitability, respond to customer needs, develop new business, and to propose process improvements.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Health Serious Games and Virtual Worlds: New Developments and a Few Favorites

Several new and expanded health-related virtual worlds and serious games are good reminders of ongoing advances in the way that health education, information, and collaborations are being developed and promoted. Virtual worlds are extremely effective where and when collaborations and interactions are key to obtaining information or education. In contrast, serious games are widely employed to train health professionals who need to understand concepts, analyze situations and scenarios, and respond to lifelike simulations.

Knowledge-Building with Information and Health Library Resources
Veteran's Health Administration in Second Life
http://slurl.com/secondlife/depo%20business%20hub/166/169/37/
http://www1.va.gov/HEALTH/VHAinSecondLife.asp

The Veterans Health Administration has entered Second Life, the 3-D, online virtual world to provide veterans with another means of accessing important health and benefits information. VHA has leased a virtual three-story, contemporary office building in a professional office park as part of pilot project to extend their outreach efforts.

Health Info Island
Funded by the Greater Midwest Region of the National Network/National Library of Medicine (GMR NN/NLM) through a grant written by Lori Bell, of the Alliance Library System, Illinois, librarians at Healthinfo Island in Second Life explore the provision of consumer health information services in a virtual environment. The island is home to a consumer health library and a medical library, as well as virtual outposts or displays run by the National Library of Medicine's Special Information Services, contractors for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and our newest building, the Accessibility Center. This center houses another GMR NN/NLM funded projectwith the aim of encouraging awareness of vision, mobility, learning, and other disabilities.

Cigna deploys a Second Life island for health education
With the goal of making healthcare education engaging and accessible, Cigna Healthcare has created a virtual environment in the Second Life virtual world to educate people on how to improve their health.


The Cigna Virtual Healthcare Community is an “island” in Linden Lab’s Second Life world where users can walk through 3-D interactive displays with their avatars, play educational games, listen to seminars on nutrition and health, and receive virtual health consultations.The pilot will offer virtual seminars, interactive displays and educational games that encourage preventative care, improvements in healthcare behavior, as well as help to sustain these changes.



The pilot, which will be conducted in the United States and the United Kingdom, is designed to encourage healthcare dialogue among users, healthcare providers and peers says Peter Mills, chief medical officer, Cigna Vielife Division. Mills emphasized that the program is "not replacing anything, but that people might find it a more preferable medium to engage in conversations about healthcare."


Health Care Serious Games

Pulse!! Virtual Clinical Learning Lab for Health Care Training
http://www.breakawaygames.com/serious-games/solutions/healthcare/pulse.html

Pulse!! is an effective immersive virtual learning space for training health care professionals in clinical skills. Graphics recreate a lifelike, interactive, virtual environment in which civilian and military heath care professionals practice clinical skills in order to better respond to injuries sustained during catastrophic incidents, such as combat or bioterrorism.

Pulse!! ws developed in partnership with Texas A & M University - Corpus Christi and funded from a federal grant from the Department of the Navy's Office of Naval Research.

Free Dive: Pediatric Pain Management http://www.breakawaygames.com/serious-games/solutions/healthcare/free_dive.html

Free Dive is a virtual reality-based, 3D undersea exploration adventure that invites players to swim with sea turtles and tropical fish as they hunt for hidden treasure.

The game was designed to distract children who undergo frequent and often painful medical procedures in conjunction with the medical researchers at University of Maryland Medical Center and the non-profit foundation, Believe in Tomorrow. A study involving Free Dive demonstrated that children better withstand painful medical procedures while engaged with Free Dive.

Escape from Diab
http://www.archimageonline.com/diab.cfm

Escape from Diab is a serious videogame adventure in healthy eating and exercise. The project is a production of Archimage, Inc, in collaboration with the Children’s Nutrition Research Center of Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine. Escape from Diab was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health.

Infection: Nanoswarm: Invasion from Inner Space
http://www.archimageonline.com/nanoswarm.cfm

Nanoswarm: Invasion from Inner Space is a serious videogame adventure in healthy eating and exercise. Archimage, Inc. collaborated with experts at the Children’s Nutrition Research Center of Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine. The project was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Open Source Textbooks: Flat World Knowledge Initiative

Podcast: http://www.beyondutopia.net/podcasts/flatworld.mp3

Flat World Knowledge
has embarked on an open textbook initiative that could reshape how students and colleges look at textbooks, ebooks, and instructional materials. They plan to make high-quality business textbooks available for free in ebook format (open, but with limited download capabilities), and for greatly discounted prices in print-on-demand paperback or hardback versions. With this initiative, Flat World Knowledge plans to address some of the current challenges facing students, instructors, and even instructional materials providers.

Flat World Knowledge's approach could revolutionize open courseware by providing the missing link -- full instructional content. Since their inception around ten years ago, open courseware initiatives have prided themselves in providing high-quality course outlines and some content free of charge. However, the courseware does not tend to offer all the course content (textbooks, assessments, practice materials, etc.), which has been a sticking point, and a barrier to growth.

Similarly, free e-books and audiobooks, such as Project Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page) and LibriVox (http://librivox.org/), have offered free ebooks of books in the public domain. The texts are definitely available, but the problem is that the texts generally do not come with critical apparatus. Further, they are often a bit bulky to read, and printing them can create major headaches. To use them in conjunction with courses is excellent, but it does take work to create the instructional strategy, instructional activities, and more. Attempts to gather together free materials on the Internet (free "textbooks") have not met with widespread acceptance because they are not easily incorporated into a uniform overall instructional strategy.

Flat World Knowledge has an alternative approach to e-books and e-textbooks, which could solve many of the current ebook and textbook problems of access, high cost, and usability. Through Flat World Knowledge's open platform, students will have access to complete textbooks (starting with business textbooks) free of charge, with the option to purchase affordable alternate formats of the content (i.e. print & audio versions of the text) and study aids (podcast study guides, mobile phone flash cards, etc.).

It will be interesting to see if this approach will be viable in the long-run, and if they can prevail despite current practices that, in many ways, exploit textbook publishers. Certainly it is popular these days to blame publishers for the high cost of textbooks, but the truth is that colleges and universities have long been leveraging the content of textbooks to fast-track the creation of high-quality courses that conform to acknowledged standards. University departments have saved millions of dollars by incorporating the content created by the textbooks, which has undergone rigorous (and expensive) review by subject matter experts in scores of peer colleges and universities across the country.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Learning Objects in Virtual Worlds

Learning Object Repositories (LORs) have emerged as more collaborative and participatory than ever before, thanks to the nature of Web 2.0. The learning objects (LOs) have more variety and they encourage sharing, personalizing, and storing. In many cases, the LORs are inter-institutional, which is to say that they were created by more than one entity, often as a collaboration within a consortium. For that reason, the LOs have needed to be multi-purposable, as well as reusable.

The virtual world, Second Life, offers numerous educational institutions an opportunity to create highly effective sims (islands). The learning objects developed by one educational institution are often utilized in other islands, often because the same design team has created many "builds" for numerous clients.

1. Virtual labs. A wide variety of learning objects exists within virtual labs. The objects are representational of real lab equipment, and they provide an opportunity for an immersion experience or a simulation. For example, on Nanotechnology Island, there is a virtual observatory in which visitors can look through a robotically controlled telescope.

2. Information kiosks. Second Life sims often feature objects that look like computer stations or workstation touchscreens. They allow the visitor to click on them and obtain information. Often, the visitor clicks the object and is taken out into the web, where there is information not yet incorporated into the island itself. For example, the University of the Pacific's visitor and orientation center allows individuals to click on their information kiosk. The kiosk contains a link to an external website, where the information is housed.

3. Calling cards. Calling cards let visitors share information about each other. A calling card is a digital object containing information -- often contact information - about each other. They can include information, capabilities, skills, even something to wear.

4. Community outreach LOs. Often it is possible to incorporate a learning object that automatically sends an instant message or designates as a "friend."

5. Simulations. Participatory, with larger community of distributed resources. For example, there are places within Second Life which allow individuals to build their own simulations, and to place interactive objects there. In this case, the builder is interacting with Learning Objects (LOs), and working within a larger asset base of distributed resources. An example is an emergency room simulation that allows health professionals and nurses to become familiar with equipment and procedures.

6. Visualization tools. Perhaps the most innovative of learning objects, these tools allow users to perceive and "see" the physical world in a new way. They can magnify (in the case of microscopes and scanning electronic microscopy in the CDC Island). They can also distort, as in the case of the Health Info Island's vision impaired kiosk, where visitors are able to enter a "cave" where they are only able to see in the way that a seriously vision impaired person might.

7. Force of Nature experiences. LOs that allow one to experience being in the eye of a hurricane, on the wave front of a tsunami, or within an EF-5 tornado, are some of the new force-of-nature immersive experiences.

8. Touch-based Learning. Some learning objects allow individuals to learn by using touch. This can occur with a touch screen, or perhaps with joysticks. The touch screens are particularly useful with respect to learning how to use equipment that has similar equipment and techniques.

9. Streaming Media. Learning objects allow individuals to watch presentations while chatting and posting comments. The experience is very immediate.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Interview with Ron Hart: AAPG's Datapages

Welcome to an interview with Ron Hart, who is in charge of the operations of Datapages, a digital information repository and a subsidiary of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. Information from Datapages is used in a number of applications, ranging from education and training, to exploration and development of oil and gas resources.

1. Please describe your position and your involvement with digital materials.

Datapages began in late 1989 with the idea that information libraries could be built on time-share computers. I was hired by Masera Corporation of Tulsa, Oklahoma, to help organize and capture selected exploration and production data in the published literature of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG). Early in the 1990s it became apparent that time-share computing was obsolete with the advent of new storage technology (new, cheaper media and larger internal drives) and with the ultimate time-share computer – the internet. Since those early days, Datapages spun off from Masera Corporation and has since been purchased by AAPG (we now are a wholly owned subsidiary).

Since 1992, Datapages has captured the full-text archives of AAPG and 29 other publishing professional societies, including all text, images, and any oversize maps, etc. We also are capturing new material in all media (GIS mapping files, streaming video of keynote lectures, etc.). I am the manager of the Datapages unit and I have been with the program since 1990 when it began.


2. What is Datapages? What kinds of materials are involved?

Datapages is the digital publishing program within the AAPG. We have responsibility for any non-print technical publication. Our archives now comprise more than 90,000 full-text documents and our goal is to gather all publications from the affiliated professional sister societies of the AAPG into a single comprehensive archive database. Our collection includes mostly HTML text with associated JPG images and PDF scans of the source document.

We also maintain a public-access online magazine for the exploration and production community (http://www.searchanddiscovery.com), featuring abstracts, short papers, and video archives from Keynote speakers at our annual Conferences.

Since 1998 we have been building a parallel database of mapping files in GIS formats. GIS (Geographic Information Systems) is used extensively in the petroleum industry in specific, and in the geological sciences in general. We launched our project with a $1 million industry-sponsored program to convert much of our published archives into GIS-formatted mapping layers or coverages. Now we receive original GIS coverages in the form of research reports from authors seeking to publish their work. We believe GIS is a viable publishing program alternative to traditional text-and-image publishing. A map is really a visual representation of a database or, as the Chinese philosopher is credited, a picture is worth a thousand words. Geologists speak in the “map” language so we wanted to begin publishing original science in that same language. We recently received a $9.4 million gift from an industry source to help endow the future of our GIS publishing program.


3. What are a few ways that the materials can be used in college courses?

The usefulness is obvious. We offer instant access to an entire research library. This is the essence of the internet – to provide 24/7 access to sources of information. A student can search our database and download entire full-text articles, use the maps and images as source documents. Using our GIS database of maps and map images, the student can download entire databases (with georeferenced links to map layers), and add his/her own data to the archived database expanding the data set.


4. How might they be used for professionals seeking to update their skills or knowledge base?

Our databases feature text and images extremely useful in the exploration and production of oil and natural gas. We offer ready industrial application. These same materials can be used as real-time data sets in training by short course instructors, workshop facilitators, and professors at universities who advise candidates for advanced degrees.


5. What do you think is the next big thing with online materials such as those included in AAPG’s Datapages?

Many commercial publishers are questioning what constitutes a publication. For the last 500 years we have been putting ink onto paper and science has advanced. This is called the “dissemination of information.” Traditional publishers have compiled discourses between the covers of a book and forced readers to purchase an entire collection of papers at once. Today we are re-defining the journal concept and anyone with a story to tell can report their research as a single paper, or even as a single map. Many research papers have been overlooked because they were included in unpopular volumes or journals, but researchers today are beginning to see their work appearing in online aggregations of many journals, appearing through the large search engines like Google, or posted to open-access websites offering legitimate peer review.

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