Skip to content

Wearables and xAPI

June 16, 2015

If you read my blog, you’ll know I’ve done a series of posts on wearables:

These have mostly focused on the tracking/monitoring aspects, less on the content delivery side (from devices like: Oculus Rift, Google Glass, Hololens, etc). Questions around tracking will of course lead to L+D questions around how to capture and report on this type of information.

In the L+D world this has always meant the Learning Management System (LMS). The LMS has a limited repertoire, however and could not accommodate the distributed data that wearables would/could create. Enter the Experience API (xAPI). This handy protocol allows you to track based on statements (“Holly” “did” “this”), which increases dramatically what can be tracked and reported on. But as with many things in our ultra-convenient technology laden world, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should!

Let’s take an example from one of the earlier posts about wearables in manufacturing situations:

“There could be RFID chips or near field communications in the machinery, the product, or on their clothing to track activity, pacing, speed, weight, etc. Perhaps it’s using motion tracking to provide insights on their physical performance. This might ensure not only high productivity, but also provide feedback on techniques that may prevent repetitive strain injuries. There might also be sensors that provide insight on their physical responses – heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, etc. There are also gadgets that capture data and transmit wirelessly via bluetooth, which generates data and could provide an opportunity for trend analysis.”

What exactly would the organization want to know/track?

  • Motion tracking inputs?
    • Which ones?
    • How frequently would those be collected?
  • It would be helpful to correlate this with any workplace injuries.
  • It might also be useful to correlate with who completed what training

Take a step-back and think about not only WHAT you’d want to collect, but more importantly WHY do you want to/need to collect that data.

When you start to think this way, you can find touchpoints that would give you data that is useful. We’d want to know that the employee is getting the right training and feedback on their performance to not only ensure productivity, but also their health and safety. It would be great to deliver performance support at the point of need, during the task. An interesting example that I’ve seen recently is: As modern instructional designers, it behooves us to learn more about how we might imagine this and actually do this. Thinking beyond the training event (attended/completed a course) is a paradigm that we really need to shift.

How this actually comes together technically in terms of developing solutions and creating xAPI statements is still a bit of a mystery to me, but I’m keen to learn more. @FionaQuigs and I are hoping to expand on this by learning together, and she has started the conversation on the Logic Earth blog.

Check back in or watch on twitter for updates! And share any insights you have.

Some additional resources:

e-learning for … everyone?

June 10, 2015

Recently I was interviewed for, Canada’s online legal magazine:

These articles came out of a discussion with Natasha Chetty of Bellwether provides strategic planning, business development, reputation management and training services to professional service firms and related organizations. Natasha and I had recently met and she was intrigued by the breadth of e-learning options and thought that some of her connections and clients might find information about e-learning useful.

It has got me thinking that there are hundreds (maybe thousands or more) of groups or people that might not be aware of how e-learning might work for them. Some organizations are well on their way to understanding and implementing e-learning. But others might be less aware of how you might leverage e-learning.

To “spark your interest”, here’s how some of our clients have used self-paced e-learning:

1. Academy – used e-learning to supplement face to face sessions, as a great value add to their product suite. Their use of e-learning was to include self-paced modules before and after a workshop to prepare and/or reinforce concepts and support offline activities. It was a good way to incorporate a ton of content into a more structured framework.

2. Software company – used e-learning to enable customers to gain competency with their software product through small modules. They had been offering open enrollment webinars for customers, which was convenient for the instructor, but not for the customer. They also used e-learning to enhance the customer journey, ensuring that the customer received the right module at the right time for a more logical sequence. All the modules were also re-purposed as performance support for customers.

3. Non-profit -used e-learning to reduce risk of losing key instructors and to increase consistency of training. With one instructor and a vast area to visit, this non-profit decided to create self-paced modules and a discussion guide to enable local facilitators to support learning about their cause.

4. High tech accelerator – used e-learning to spread their reach and provide access to entrepreneurs outside of metropolitan areas. By creating self-paced modules, the organization was able to provide more service to a larger geographical area. It created several modules that entrepreneurs could complete at their own pace. There was a set of worksheets that accompanied the modules to help the learner translate knowledge into action.

5. School districts – used e-learning to provide training around innovative initiatives (adults mentoring youth). This group recognized that a way to not only convey the philosophy of their program, but also offer skill-building opportunities and reflective suggestions would prepare program participants with more information and increase the number and quality of successful mentoring partnerships.

6. Real estate appraisers – used e-learning to help apply theoretical concepts to practical real world situations. There’s a lot of theory, math and models involved. These are usually taught with textbooks and lectures, however when it comes to putting the theory into practice, there are some real world constraints to consider. Using self-paced modules allowed for pictures, interactive elements and instructional feedback to solidify the practice. It also provided a way to contrast good and bad practice.

7. Health organizations – used e-learning for patient education to ensure people with a chronic condition could manage their health and lifestyle. The previous approach was to have a nurse visit the patient at home with a binder full of information. The organization realized that this is not only hard on the patients, but also the nurses. The patients were provided with the online modules that they could visit and revisit at any time. The nuances related to this particular condition meant that constant monitoring was needed and online modules enabled patients to refresh themselves on what was needed at that point in time. Nurses could spend time reinforcing and dealing with more complex challenges.

8. Sales organizations – used e-learning to teach sales reps how to sell products and services in a consultative way to support their unique value proposition and to save their sales managers time in product training. Managers are provided with discussion guide and offline learning activities to enable reps to practice what they’ve learned in a coaching environment. This ensures that the reps are learning what they need to learn and practicing with their manager, not the customer. It also provides the managers with the structure to support their reps, not have to be expert teachers.

9. Associations – used e-learning for staff, volunteers and  members – getting all stakeholders on the same page was much easier with self-paced modules. There are overlapping needs from these groups and the organization was able to repurpose the content to meet each of the groups’ needs.

10. You? – do you have an organization need that you’d like to use e-learning for? We’re particularly interested in small to medium sized organizations and groups that offer community service, education around a cause, organizations that want to enhance their product offering or value proposition and pioneering individuals who’d like to find a way to sell their training. If so, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

So, e-learning for everyone? I think it’s likely that e-learning is a great fit for a lot of organizations. Maybe not everyone, but I’ll bet we could find a way for a large majority. If you have a story to share about how you/your organization used e-learning, please post in the comments.

Book Review: Articulate Storyline Essentials

June 2, 2015

I was asked to review the book “Articulate Storyline Essentials” by Ashley Chiasson. The Articulate Storyline Hub is a pretty comprehensive site for learning and troubleshooting Storyline projects and you may wonder if a book is even necessary in this day and age.  What’s nice about a book, and this book in particular, is how it approaches the subject. Articulate Storyline Essentials

This is a nice compact book and really does provide the essentials, without adding extraneous details. As Ashley points out there is a lot of help that can be had on the Elearning Heroes Community. Here are some observations I had:

  • The book is logically laid out and I appreciated the pace of the book.
  • I also really liked the tone of the book. It has an encouraging and enthusiastic tone that reinforced the fact that Storyline is an easy tool to pick up and learn. I have worked with Ashley, so can attest that this is a very authentic style.
  • I would have liked a few more specific references for resources, sprinkled throughout the book. While Storyline does provide you with the basics of what you need, there are features where it is limited (image editing, audio editing) and most developers augment with other tools and novice developers might not know this. “Forewarned is forearmed” they say, and knowing where limitations exist would give developers guidance around managing those limitations. When you come across a limitation, you are disappointed and frustrated that you can’t necessarily do what you want with the tool. I love Storyline but as with any tool, you can’t expect it to be all things to all people.

Note: The book does direct you to a previously published book “Learning Articulate Storyline” which I reviewed previously and mentions another book that Ashley is working on called “Mastering Articulate Storyline” that will extend beyond the basics.

What I really appreciated about this book, however, was how it framed the creation of your e-learning as a “story”. Seems obvious, as the tool is called “Storyline” but most people describe the output they create as e-learning or courses. By labeling it as a story throughout the entire book, you are reminded that you are not just creating a course, but you are weaving a story and that Articulate Storyline is a storytelling tool, not just an e-learning authoring tool. This is a really powerful way to think about your output. It elevates the various components (images, interactivity, audio/video) to story elements. And for new users to the tool, “creating a story” should provide a great starting point to conceptualize projects. Tell the story that you want to tell, don’t create a course.

I think this is a great book for a novice user and very much look forward to Ashley’s next book.

Disclaimer: I was provided a review copy of the book and have worked directly with Ashley. Neither of these factors influenced my review.

Wearables and knowledge workers. A perfect match for learning?

April 14, 2015

This is another installment in the series about using wearables to provide training/education.

This post will focus on knowledge workers. In previous posts, there was a greater emphasis on using wearables for groups of employees, in this post the focus will shift to how individual employees might be able to harness the power of wearables to support their learning and performance.

What makes knowledge workers different?

There is typically more latititude offered to these workers. They may have creative roles or administrative ones, but they often have flexibility to learn and work in ways (or places) that suit them. They can also customize their learning paths much more.

How might wearables enhance their training/learning or professional development?

Firstly, knowledge workers likely have much greater access to both desktop and mobile devices throughout their workdays. They attend meetings with their phone, they can access the corporate intranet or LMS at their desk, they might even be interested in the watches or other devices for alerts or monitoring and may be more likely to have a consumer device that tracks fitness or lifestyle factors. There’s a large movement called “Quantified Self” that explores how people are using biometrics to manage various aspects of their life. For a knowledge worker, they might see the value in setting up their own “experiment” or using a service like “Quantified Mind” to determine if they can influence their wellbeing.

Secondly, knowledge workers might be more likely to consider their training a part of their professional development and see their performance much like an athlete, requiring practice and feedback to reach goals. Their goals are often career related. Mastering skills or gaining competency might set them apart from their potential rivals when the next promotion comes up or when a headhunter calls for a great prospect at a new organization. The motivation to learn and improve is driven by the individual. Finding apps and services that allow them to track and monitor their performance is not all that uncommon ( ) and enterprise specific apps are evolving out of existing platforms:

As a knowledge worker, you may be looking for feedback on how quickly you were able to learn the new system in the office or you may be looking for input to identify your best creative time or the best make-up of the team to tackle a problem or pinpointing why communication is breaking down ( and by providing input in the moment you are able to collect data to apply to future situations. Perhaps you are using moodtracking to determine when you are stressed or really focused.

One aspect about a knowledge workers work environment is that it might change from office to home to client site to airport and the ubiquity of wearables makes it easier to both access information (which might be performance support) or maintain tracking away from the cubicle. This allows for a more seamless collection of data and can help the knowledge worker calibrate their best learning environment and potentially identify (training) tasks that are best suited for one environment or another.

If we broaden the concept of wearables to the “internet of things” then novel hardware might enhance learning and performance even more. Perhaps it isn’t necessarily attached to your body, but it’s a thing that can provide feedback, adapt or otherwise aid your performance. Consider things like:

From an organizational perspective, the fear is that companies will spy, monitor or punish employees based on data that is gathered and analyzed through wearables. This is not limited to knowledge workers of course, but all employees. Hopefully an enlightened organization would be selective about how they use wearables and how much data they collect.

It’s a fascinating time to consider these aspects, and envision the workplace of the future. Is it like the Minority Report? Is it like “Her“? And what does the training industry see as the impacts of some of these technological changes? Will adaptive games be the way we develop training for wearable platforms? Will we gravitate towards performance support and micro-content? Will we invest in Virtual Reality? Will we develop “smart authoring platforms”?

What do you think?


What does travel teach us about learning?

April 8, 2015

I’ve recently returned from a trip to Greece and thought it would be fun to reflect on what I’ve learned from travel that I could apply to training or learning.

Don’t rely solely on technology

We had the worst GPS experiences on this trip. Our GPS sent us up the side of mountains where the word road could only be loosely applied and down narrow side streets that added unnecessary stress to a drive and may have saved a second or two in the journey. It also frequently got confused and would “replan” in the middle of a journey. When we were up the mountain, we used a brochure with a rudimentary map and a goat herder to “reposition” ourselves and turnaround for a treacherous journey downhill to our actual destination. After awhile of the silly side streets, we ignored the commands from the GPS and trusted our instincts or road signs. We also tried to outwit the GPS by entering in stages of a journey rather than the whole thing. It worked a bit better. For future reference, we’ll be taking a good old fashioned map along for the ride and verifying the GPS with another source, even the goat herders. The roads were still a challenge – much like this author describes ( but the scenery was pretty spectacular.

The road from Sparti to Kalamata

The road from Sparti to Kalamata

Lesson: It’s very easy to be seduced into the convenience of technology, but there are times that we need to engage the brains and not just follow the instructions. When considering the use of technology in learning solutions, we should really be wary of what might make things so easy but really not helpful in the long run. If we hadn’t shut off the GPS and asked the goat herder, we might have ended up in the gorge where the Spartans used to toss their lame babies or hundreds of kilometers away from our destination (and mostly UP). We need to be careful that we don’t lull ourselves into a false sense of security where mindless employees can’t respond to problems or adjust their plan because they don’t have the device that tells them.

A story goes a long way

We were a bit underwhelmed at some of the museums we went into, the descriptions of the items were mostly interesting, but after awhile there were only so many columns and statues that we could take. Some attempted to provide a bit of background, but the things that were the most interesting were the stories that the museum displayed told. Putting a date on something only gets you so far. “wow, this one is from 439 BC…. oh wait, this one is even older”. That actually gets a bit boring. Unless you are museum curator or hard core history buff, this won’t really enhance your experience. We actually enjoyed the Museum of the Olive and Greek Olive Oil. It told stories about the evolution of the olive and the influence it has on the region. Fascinating. Plus they added some cool features: a recipe printing station (we printed and cooked at least one, very yum), a video about how soap is made, working machinery and miniature replicas of factories. But mostly the stories were what kept us engaged. The sexy new Acropolis Museum was very good as well (also told more stories than just displayed stuff).



Lesson: When considering how to engage someone in your facts or content, a story can be a much more compelling way to do so. Provide some context and put your facts (or objects) into that context. Otherwise it’s just stuff, even if it is interesting.

Language matters

OK, so you can imagine that Greek is not an easy language to learn, but what made it harder to navigate around (for me) was the various spelling of places. We spent a couple of days in Nafplion, also spelled: Nafplio, Anapli, Nauplie, Nauplio, Nauplion. We had the same problem in Kardimyli. We hoped as we entered one spelling into the GPS that she’d understand and also used the road signs to verify and hoped that they at least sounded similar in pronunciation when we asked for help or directions!

Nafplion, Nafplio, Anapli, Nauplie, Nauplio, Nauplion, beautiful regardless of spelling!

Nafplion, Nafplio, Anapli, Nauplie, Nauplio, Nauplion, beautiful regardless of spelling!

Lesson: when you are putting together training, your audience is like the foreign tourists who don’t understand the jargon that is used by experts in your country. Try to keep it simple! Feeling lost and a bit foolish doesn’t help anyone learn.

Travel is great for gaining perspective and experiencing things you don’t normally get a chance to in your usual environment. Every trip provides you with insights, hopefully great memories and if you are lucky some new friends.

What have your travels taught you? I’ve enjoyed Julian Stodd’s recent articles on this, and not just because my next trip is to NYC…





How wearables might work to train employees in customer service roles

March 10, 2015

This is part 3 of my series of posts on wearables. You can view the others: Part I,  Part II and Part III.

In this post we’ll look at the potential use of wearables in customer service work and more specifically how we use them for training and development purposes. First of all, let’s clarify what customer service roles considered for the purposes of this post.

  • Retail service
  • Food service
  • Financial service
  • Travel agents and tourism providers
  • Call centres

There’s many others, but we’ll stick with those. They share common challenges when it comes to training their employees. The most common is that employees are interacting directly with their customers constantly. Providing training to them usually means doing it outside of work hours (and paying them more to complete) or sometimes skipping it altogether. Not a great idea (see last post on Training Debt). These are also typically high-turnover types of jobs and that means organizations are constantly training new employees.  Most of these organizations also involve selling and servicing a wide variety of products so ongoing training is usually required for existing employees. Service-based businesses, especially large chains, often have many employees. The cost of training is very high and never ending.

So, what’s the role for wearables?

1. Reduce the amount of formal training and increase the amount of performance support with feedback. There are many places that wearables could provide an ability to track activity by time or motion and trigger some type of follow-up performance support. The work environment is still not completely under the employee’s control (their pace and activity is determine by customer arrival), but there are mechanisms to at least capture a datapoint and provide daily feedback, much like a fitbit does. Perhaps at certain points of a workday the employee can provide their own reflection or impact, much like was suggested in this post, and then they can do some analysis on trends and challenges over time.

2. Sensors on furniture or equipment that “talk” to wearable, such as a uniform or a nametag or a watch. The wearable could provide some trigger that this person has arrived in the work environment and they are ready for a certain piece of performance support or are able to order up a mini-lesson. This would enable training/performance support to be based on demand, not supply. It could also trigger customer activity and offer prompts to the employee, such as: “customer is looking at the jeans section, remember to talk about style, size and fit”. Or perhaps innovations like this provide an example – this billboard uses facial recognition technology to change the display coupled with push notifications built with this to capture the attention with donations.

3. Wearables might be interacting with their point-of-sale (POS) or customer relationship management (CRM) program which can compile data such as frequency of errors or inefficient processes that can be “audited” and corrective instruction provided. This provides evidence-based performance support that really targets what the employee is doing in the software or POS that could provide valuable information about how they could improve their performance on the job.

4. Video recording of interactions or “virtual coaching” of customer interactions that are subsequently viewed and discussed to illustrate teachable moments. While there are potential barriers to this (how many customers are going to agree to being recorded?) it is a way to use a wearable to provide a data point for ongoing learning. In call centres, we are always advised that the transaction may be recorded for training purposes, so this is really an evolution of an existing practice.

There are concerns about the role of wearables in the workplace, but they are a tool. Tools can be used for both good and evil. Before we jump to conclusions, I think we need to explore the potential of wearables and of any technology. I loved this post by @JulianStoddThe Inexorable March in the Quantification of Me” – and especially his closing line:

It’s our role to explore: to think. To try things out. The Social Age is about iterative learning and a willingness to question everything. To humbly share our success and failure and learn together. Cynicism and denial are not differentiating behaviours.

I couldn’t agree more.

Are you Incurring Training Debt?

February 24, 2015

I recently read this post about “HR Debt“, which I strongly encourage you to read.

Most startup founders are familiar with the idea of technical debt, whereby poor system design or coding builds problems over time and makes it hard to improve a piece of software. If you don’t clean up and refactor as you build, you’re left with a clunky mess that no one can (or wants to) fix.

The same thing happens if you hack your way through hiring and management.

I call this HR Debt.

Come on back when you are done.

Training Debt

It got me to thinking about the same notion when it comes to training. Are there situations that you are incurring training debt through poor system design? I think for many organizations there are times when that could be a yes.

1. Not offering new employee training – in a small organization, there is very little of this offered for a couple of reasons: you might be the only person that does that work and there’s no real documented processes or training to use, and there might not be anyone in charge within the organization to give that warm fuzzy orientation that larger organizations can offer.

In larger organizations there may be a nice orientation “course”, but often the connection between the vision, values, HR info that you get in an orientation and job-specific training is missing or at odds with what’s in the warm fuzzy orientation.

So you may have employees who don’t know what to do and/or you have employees who don’t know why they do it.

2. New product roll-out – launching a new product into the market without providing proper employee training could end up hurting you in the end.

3. Ignoring legislative or regulatory requirements – You might also risk an employee doing a task wrong, which could have dire circumstances for your customers, your company or even create personal liability.

4. Ignoring some employees when it comes to training – if you are focusing on groups of employees, you may be missing some people that are less obvious, but can have a big impact on the organization. For example you train employees who are customer-facing, but don’t bother training others in the organization.

5. Doing all classroom or self-paced elearning – if you don’t match the need with the method, you may end up spending more on training that isn’t really the right fit. Sometimes, connecting employees together to learn from one another is the right approach, other times it might be creating a helpful job aid.

6. Overspending on a single group, such as the executives – if your budget is limited, don’t let your ego dictate your spending choices – those leadership development programs are always expensive and may not deliver in the end.

7. Creating training and not keeping it current – this becomes not only a waste of time to provide the training, but means that the validity of the entire training solution might be called into question and not followed (can I trust that this is the right information?)

8. Treating training as a “one 0ff” – put them through a training class and then assume they are “trained”.

9. Appointing someone in your organization as the “trainer” – they may know a lot about the subject, but they may not remember what it’s like to be new, or how to sequence instruction to maximize learning. This might end up a situation where your good intentions cost you more in the end.

10. Not training customers, suppliers or others in your ecosystem about things that are critical to your business. Training is not solely for employees.

11. Waiting until a major issue, mistake or event forces you to provide training.

12. Thinking of training as a “perk” – this happens a lot when it comes to ongoing professional development – you offer a certain amount of money for ongoing learning but don’t consider how to manage this or what the implications are as you grow.

13. Tacking training on at the end of a project – this is common in systems training – training is considered when everything has already been designed (when it would have been much better to be involved during the project to understand the system and impacts on employees) or it is assumed that you will deliver this in a classroom.

Preventing Training Debt

In terms of preventing training debt – while there are times to hack together a quick and dirty training session, there are also times where that approach will come back to haunt you. Consider training as a strategic connection to your brand and your company growth. Investing is different than just spending. As you build your business plan, make sure you add in the questions: “who needs to be trained on this?” or “what training needs to be considered”. When introducing something new, don’t forget the training element. Seek out help if you need it.

What do you think? Are there areas of “training debt” that I’ve missed? What have you seen that you’d add to my list? What strategies would you offer to deal with it?


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,881 other followers

%d bloggers like this: