What always stuns me are vendors who state they know what their learners want, but in reality have no clue, because they themselves do not see the technology and its usage among the masses.

2011

A greater number of people, worldwide are using SaaS then ever before, mobile products, tablets – especially the iPad – is growing at a feverish pace, people are using online storage, beyond just placing photos and media, and open source is continuing expansion.

Each one of these features could be implemented into systems in six months or less. Each one is available today on the Internet for free and these types of products are gaining mass in the global market.

Your end users make up that mass, and a statement I hear often is that people aren’t staying in the systems to fully benefit from it. These features can change that.

E-Mail

The growing number of businesses leaving Microsoft Outlook to Internet e-mail is amazing. Two years ago, this just wasn’t happening, but as with anything the market is changing.

While there are a couple of vendors out there who have incorporated e-mail that can go to outside to people, rather than just within the learning management product, the overall space isn’t doing it.

Online Storage i.e online hard drives

The whole premise of this product began for two reasons

  • To hold photos, images, media files – eventually moved to word docs
  • Backup your computer’s hard drive – used by early adopters, but the general mass wasn’t using it for this reason

Reality

  • Backup of their hard drive (in case, your cpu crashes, and it easier to restore, rather than deal with burning a DVD or CD with a image)
  • On the Go – mobile access to documents, files, business presentations regardless of your location – instant access
  • Collaboration
  • Free open hard drive space – especially with video hungry files. Think about this – what percentage of your files on your computer are Office type documents?  Why are people using such products as Google docs?

One product that has exploded in the past year is Dropbox.

What makes Dropbox so effective?

  • Works even when offline. You always have your files, whether or not you have a connection
  • In the iPad, there are quite a few products – other apps – that include Dropbox
  • Free version offers 2GB of storage, paid version goes as high as 100GB
  • Can transfer just the parts of a file that change
  • Manually sets bandwidth limits, eliminating hog of your system resources
  • Changes happen instantly, no drag time
  • Keeps one month history, is secure with SSL and AES 256

Why would I want this?

  • I see this as one of the most important features for any learning management system, open source or commercial
  • Innovation drives the market (regardless if it is e-learning or not)
  • People are using it – your end users – regardless of age group
  • Eliminates the “storage” content component of learning management systems that sadly continues to grow-  to offset systems’ bandwidth and server costs. The benefit for you, saves unnecessary costs and increases ROI
  • Enables systems to focus on other features, without incurring additional costs, thus saving cash on hand
  • Boosts mobile learning value, social learning (P2P is a form of social media) and removes the browser issue for many businesses (i.e those who are using IE 7)
  • Learners will increase usage within the system, again ROI value

Virtual Desktops

If you could work on “in the cloud” regardless of your location, and have something that mimics your desktop would you?

Virtual desktops not only mimic a desktop on a cpu, but they include such things as a calendar, clock, media player, wallpaper background, desktop icons, online storage, word processing, high file size upload (some go up to 150mb per file) and e-mail.

Many include WebDev – thus it can become a PaaS (Platform as a Service)?

 eyeOS, is 100% free and open source. 

Why would I want it?

  • Mobile learning value is there, expands a system who offers extended enterprise
  • Perfect for academia/education and corporate
  • Can be open source, cost? Nearly zero
  • WebDev allows greater value, by enabling more capabilities to be incorporated, depending on your needs – you have the POWER to drive innovation
  • Content authoring tools that have to be used on the desktop of your cpu, no longer is required
  • Web conferencing vendors can establish themselves to expand beyond the meeting standard
  • Feature set is rich – think of the possibilities, even with a learning management or learning portal system

Collaboration via a virtual experience can go places that were not possible before, offers innovation and continues the evolution of systems to adapt in the technology age.

Text to Speech, Speech to Text (ESR), Automatic Voice Recognition,  Audio Social Learning

Tired of having to type to post comments in social learning solutions, what about on discussion boards or forums? Wishing there was a way to enhance your learning experience, with such products as augmented reality, virtual worlds or VOIP?

As aforementioned one company called Wimba already has audio – voice capabilities within their social learning product, so that learners can say their comments on a discussion board and other learners can hear the voice comments rather than read them.

Speech to Text (ESR) really takes it one step further.

With more people using VOIP, then ever before the ability to post comments or write documents without having to type on word takes on a whole new approach to learning.

What if at some point you could say the content you needed to have within a course, rather than typing it out. Or with audio recognition be able to open windows in a RCAT, locate a file and then say upload.

This at the same time, you are providing administration services in your learning management system?

The ability to create documents and work on them in a collaborative fashion without the worry of bandwidth, will take social learning to the next level.

Why would I want it?

  • As a training or learning executive, you open up new training scenarios (if you were to use voice as the response mechanism, rather than someone merely typing in or clicking a button in a course, or posting their thoughts on a discussion board)
  • For an e-learning vendor, opens up features within your product that you never thought was possible – lets say you have offer limited languages within your tool, for a native speaker they are able to communicate in their own languages – which is then transmitted and presented in your product, and can change into text
  • Virtual worlds can add features such as a PowerPoint or slide presentation with voice, learning platforms can add a virtual experience incorporating augmented reality
  • Synchronous based learning which has limitations and sometimes passive learning, now becomes active learning
  • Social learning takes on a whole new meaning

Converters

Recent studies are showing that e-books are doing real damage to the book market. Publishers are looking more and more at the use of e-books.

Yet, as a training community, we have limited options for materials. Have you ever created a PDF which cannot be seen by the other party? Created a PDF that is so large, it takes forever to open, and your learners bolt before ever reading it?

Today, people are using video converters, audio converters – and this is not just your learners using these tools, many people in the e-learning side, do it as well. So, why aren’t tools like this available in a system or authoring tool?

For mobile learning it changes the dynamics, especially for those who use tablets and e-readers (can you say a whole new audience?).

Why would I want it?

  • Open source converters exist today – so vendors can offer these tools through the cloud, a couple of tools are free, open source
  • Opens up a new window for ease of use and enables learners regardless of bandwidth to view the files
  • A new audience for e-learning, courtesy of e-readers
  • Vendors can create their own e-reader within their product, think Calibre which is free and opens up multiple ebook formats including .epub
  • Offers offline reading

Bottom Line

Advancements in technology and the usage of numerous cloud products, clearly show where end users are going and what they are utilizing to enhance their internet experience.

But for the majority of e-learning vendors, they just fail to see it.

Many will argue the cost involved and time, yet will create such features as a “forum”, “chat room” or the FB like page without exact concerns of cost.  Because they see it as revenue.

If vendors are adding SEO features, mobile learning capabilities and social learning, wouldn’t one  assume that they are looking at the market, despite what they say?

The problem thus lies in being behind the curve. If you doubt this, look at how many vendors are now offering social learning – which they see as chat rooms, discussion boards, wikis, RSS feeds and a blog. 

Great, if it was 2008 or in the case of discussion boards and chat rooms, perfect for 1996.

They see what they want to see and what they perceive as the end user market.

It is time to remove the blinders.

Note: Due to travel, I will not be posting next week. The next post will be on May 16th.

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