Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Interviews with E-Learning Innovators: George Colombo, Neulio

Welcome to E-Learning Queen's expanded interview series, now with e-learning innovators who are committed to new approaches to learning using online and mobile technologies, as well as new applications, infrastructure, hardware, and methodologies. Today's interview is with George Colombo, an e-learning innovator and founder of Neulio, which uses a new approach for developing and distributing video training and education.

What is your name and your relation to Neulio?

My name is George Colombo. I’m the founder of Neulio.

What is Neulio? What does it do? How does it work?

We provide a unique hosted platform that allows organizations to publish Web 2.0 media designed to deliver business results. We call it Structured Social Media™. Simply put, it’s what YouTube might look like if it were built for business rather than entertainment.

There are a few things that make Neulio unique:

Rather than just posting a single video file, we all users to create volumes that are comprised of multiple chapters. This allows you to create content that’s delivered sequentially which makes the communication/education process more effective. (If you think about it, just about everything you’ve ever learned has been through the delivery of sequential pieces of information, each piece building on the last.) It also makes it easier for your customers and/or employees to find specific information they might want to review.
Neulio lets you create chapters with different types of media files. In addition to video files, we let you publish audio files and PowerPoint presentations and we allow you to use these different files types within the same volume. This allows you to easily repurpose existing content. It also lets you pick the medium that’s best suited to a particular element of your message.
Neulio offers something we call gates. These are controls that you can insert between chapters. The types of gates we currently offer are passwords, quizzes, and payments. (Yes, that means that Neulio lets you charge for your content if you want.)

Users can use the Neulio platform for free at learningcommunities.neulio.com. This is a YouTube-like, open-to-the-public site. If users want to share their content in an environment and setting over which they have more control, they can use our subscription-based service.

Why do you believe in it?

Large corporations have long been able to publish their media content,but it’s always been an expensive process that required technical resources. YouTube made media publishing more widely available, but it didn’t offer serious users the control they wanted. I believe that we’ve achieved the right balance between accessibility on one hand and professionalism and control on the other.

If a company has a large IT staff, huge budget, and plenty of time, they could certainly replicate Neulio’s functionality. The history of the technology industry is filled with companies that have democratized important functionality, i.e. made previously unattainable applications available to the masses. Spreadsheets, desktop publishing, accounting applications, and web publishing are all examples of that dynamic. We believe that Neulio is perfectly positioned to apply that same model to social media publishing.

What is the philosophy of Neulio?

We have a few foundational principles that inform everything we do. One is that our unique, multi-part structure is an important differentiator. It’s not for nothing that the convention of dividing books into chapters has endured for centuries. There’s a lot of information that’s just more useful when it’s conveyed in sequential chunks.

The other important principle is that tools need to be easy to use. Our platform makes publishing sophisticated, multi-part content just about as easy as posting a video on YouTube. In fact, the process we created that allows regular users to publish this type of content is so central to our value proposition for our customers that we’ve patented it.
What do you see as the future of video training?

There are a couple of things to consider here. The first is that tools like Neulio and YouTube, along with inexpensive, easy-to-use video editing software make customized video training a viable option for small and medium-sized business that just a short time ago couldn’t have considered it. Deployment costs drop dramatically as a result. More importantly, capturing and deploying very specific, best practices content suddenly becomes affordable and practical.

Neulio's Composer makes creating multi-part volumes as easy as posting a video to YouTube.

The other dynamic at work is the fact that in situations where in-person training is required, online video training can be deployed in conjunction with in-person interaction. In fact, if certain material can be deployed as pre-training or post-training material delivered online, on-demand, then the level of the in-person interaction can be much higher and more effective.

Who will use video training? Where will it be distributed?

The short but substantially correct answer to the first part of your question is “Everyone.” As the costs for both the production and the distribution of video training content go down, it will evolve into a medium that is pervasive and ubiquitous.

As for distribution, the web is in the process of displacing virtually every other distribution mechanism out there. CDs and DVDs will soon be as anachronistic as 8-track tapes and vinyl records. The advantages of web-based distribution are enormous. The only real issue is how to make sure that the infrastructure is adequate to meet the exponentially growing demand of the marketplace.

How will it be publicized? ( * I assumed that the “it” in this question was “video training,” not “Neulio.”)

This is one of the interesting aspects of social media, as opposed to straightforward media publishing, is that the most important elements of propagation are built right in to the application. Think about most of the YouTube videos you’ve ever seen. If you’re like most people, you didn’t find videos by navigating to YouTube and searching around the site. You found them when someone you know forwarded a link to you.

Sharing is a Web 2.0 convention that facilitates the distribution of content to the specific people who need it or would appreciate it. Harnessing Web 2.0 functionality like that was one of our objectives in designing Neulio.

Where do you see video training 18 months from now?

We are at the very beginning of a long-term trend that will be pervasive and irresistible. The cost advantages of video training are overwhelming and the functionality that we can wrap around video on the web is determinative. In 18 months, we’ll have progressed significantly down the road but we’ll still be very close to the beginning of the long-term process. At the end of the process, “video training” and “training” will be virtually synonymous; in-person training will be reserved for very specialized, very high-end circumstances.

Where and how does video training provide value in a recession? How does it facilitate recovery?

In a recession, video training represents the easiest, fastest, least expensive way to get an organization adequately trained. And in a highly competitive business environment, solid training can be a significant competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Training means that your employees work smarter. It means that your customers receive a higher level of service. It means that fewer mistakes are made, so that employees can spend more time working on new projects instead of fixing old ones. The problem is that, when times are tight, cutting the training budget is a common way to lower expenses. Video training allows organizations to deliver better training. It lets them leverage the cost of training dramatically and to enhance the learning outcomes. It’s a significant solution for organizations that want to actually enhance results while lowering costs.

Neulio has built-in editing tools that allow users to customize the way a Neulio site looks.

Here's an extension of the previous question -- How can we use video training to rebuild America?

I am a big believer in the importance of making information available to the people who need it and video training is an important part of that process. We are clearly embarking on a time when entirely new sets of skills will be needed in the workplace as new industries emerge. The wholesale re-creation of our energy industry that is likely to occur over the next couple of decades is a great example. Video training will allow large numbers of individuals to acquire the skills and information they need to fully participate in the new, emerging economy.

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