Monday, December 13, 2010

Updated Animations and Simulations for Cross-Delivery on Variable Devices, Platforms, Access

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

Flash-based animations, simulations using virtual worlds such as Second Life, and learning management system-hosted interactive quizzes and assessments have become mainstays of many training programs, college courses, and professional development experiences. Animations and simulations are clearly effective in technical training, but they are often equally useful for sociology, psychology, cultural studies, earth sciences, biology, and other courses. While some of the objects can be downloaded to mobile devices, there are often major gaps in coverage, compatibility, and access.

How can you quickly update your animations, simulations, and other interactive content so that you can deliver them on a wide array of devices, platforms, and in situations with variable access?

The key is organization, access, and flexibility.

You can repurpose your existing learning objects and update ones that need updating fairly easily.

Before you start, ask yourself a few key questions:

Question 1: What are my goals? Who are the learners and what do I want the outcomes to be? What should they be able to do at the end of their instructional experience?

Question 2: Precisely where can animation and simulation help achieve learning goals? What are the skills that need to be acquired, -- the ability to identify components and to participate in processes? What are the decisions to be made, and the collaborative / interactive experiences to be replicated?

For example, let's say that your learners consist of a group of geoscientists who wish to learn more about the potential for natural gas production from the Utica Shale in Quebec. At the present time, your graphics may consist of a few maps, diagrams, and photographs. However, in order for your learners to gain an ability to evaluate a wide variety of geological, geophysical, geochemical, petrophysical, and engineering data, they need to have a good sense of a dynamic system.

If you'd like them to understand how to be involved in successful exploration and production (drilling, hydraulic fracturing, production), then they will benefit from having an immersive experience -- and visualizing what exactly happens in the different activities.

Thus, you're really under pressure to update and improve the quality and dynamism of the training experience. You need better learning objects.

At the same time, you realize that not everyone has equal access to equipment. You need to be able to deliver as much as you can by means of small, easy-to-push objects that your learners can access on a wide variety of laptops and handheld devices -- ranging from smartphones to iPads and other tablets.

Storyboarding: Some of the best immersive experiences involve a series of experiences that range from reviewing diagrams and interactive animations to immersing yourself in a virtual world. You may have an avatar, or you simply move through various levels.


Nested Powerpoint Storyboards: Many storyboards consist of a series of bifurcating powerpoints -- which is to say that each option consists of a separate set of powerpoints. Such an approach is not always the best approach because it can lead to a rather flat presentation, especially if you're needing to look at something from multiple perspectives, or looking at a dynamic application.

Video Storyboarding: If you're working with equipment, processes, or dynamic interactions, video storyboarding can be a great way to go. You can make low-resolution spontaneous video snippets that record what you are doing. Let's take the case of drilling operations in the Utica Shale. You might storyboard a series of 15 - 30 second videos of such scenes as the video of a drill bit turning, the recording of live monitoring of geosteering, etc. The videos can be used "as is" for spontaneous graphics, or can be stylized by using various graphics programs that can then make your graphics virtual world-ready. Depending on the software package you use, you can give all your videos a stylized and consistent look and feel.

Organizing Your Materials:

Step 1: Inventory your learning objects. Determine which ones you can keep and build on.

Step 2: Gap analysis. Where will you need to develop / modify your learning objects in order to make your storyboards develop into learning modules?

Step 3. Prioritize your learning modules. Which processes, procedures, equipment, and content do you need most urgently?

Step 4. Create a schedule for developing the components you can easily transform into high-quality graphics. The components may include still photographs, diagrams, maps, charts, schematics, flowcharts, videos, and audio files.

Step 5. Review your assessment strategies. When / where will interactive quizzes allow you to achieve your goals? When will you need to do something more collaborative and/or interactive? Look at how you record your learners' progress. When / where do you keep a transcript? Do you tie it to a talent management program?

This is a brief overview of the steps you can take to get started with updating your animation and simulation content to meet the needs of learners who use a variety devices and interfaces. It's also a way to expand your use of simulations and animations in a low-cost way.

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