ET.  When you think of that word what comes to mind? A little creature who has cravings for Reese’s Pieces?  Who likes to “phone home”? 

Well, if you thought that was what I was referring to, then you have the wrong blog – I think the movies section is somewhere over there — .

ET in this case refers to emerging technology.  Emerging technology that has I believe the potential to do wonders in the e-learning space.  We have all been witnesses to emerging technology in just the past couple of years.

Great (Past) Emerging Technology

  • The Internet – as we know it
  • E-Mail
  • TV remote – be honest.. you know you like that technology
  • Fax machines
  • Cell phones – remember the days when you couldn’t call anyone in the supermarket?
  • Smartphones – the next evolution of cell phones
  • Tablets
  • The Car – hey, that is why it says “past” great emerging technology – horses are so passe
  • And so on.. the list literally can go on..

E-Learning and Emerging Technology

While you can easily put a lot of things in here, I am going to talk about four emerging technologies I see as real powerhouses in the possibilities and capabilities in e-learning.  The interesting spin, all of this technology is available – right now. 

What makes it exciting is not just the technology but where it can still go – and that is what really gets the juices flowing – just like a nice NY strip steak (I digress).

Technology #1 – Kinect

Many people auto associate Kinect with Microsoft and it is understandable why that it is – i.e. Xbox. The truth of the matter though is that the technology was created in Cambridge, England and not by anyone at Microsoft.

Kinect offers the end user the ability to become immersed in the game. I won’t go into details about the Kinect technology, but here is a good article to read.

Kinect in use today

Right now, a lot of people are using Kinect technology in numerous ways that have nothing to do with the Xbox 360 or Microsoft. In fact, there are products out there where you can use this technology on mobile devices, on cameras and even on your computer.

But – you say – what about learning/education and training? Is Kinect technology being used there?  YES.

  • Numerous schools around the world have used/are using Kinect technology in the classroom. The heavy users tend to be K-6, but there are instances where Kinect technology has been used at the university level.
  • A teacher at an elementary school in Colorado has seen great success with Kinect. In her case, she used the Kinect with the Xbox gaming device.
  • There are sites dedicated specifically for Kinect technology and education
  • In Australia, a conference will be dedicated to Kinect and the corporate world – as far as I am aware, it is the first dedicated Kinect technology tied to corporate training type conference – exciting stuff!
  • Kinect technology has been shown to create an immersive experience for all types of training (see below)

Kinect + Kinect = Immersion E-Learning

When I think of Kinect technology, I immediately think of course immersion. The biggest issue when it comes to e-learning are the courses. Most stink!  They are page turners that will bore anyone.  Many see interaction no more than clicking a button or having some script pop up telling you “good job”.

I won’t go into the whole interactive learning experience diatribe here, but with the “gamification” angle happening in the space right now, why are we not seeing immersion e-learning games?

With this technology, imagine what you can do and provide to your learners? Best of all, they are no longer limited to using their TV or even their computer. They can use it with mobile devices too.

That said, let’s  say you do not want to have any type of gaming angle – no worries – as you saw above with the maintenance training – it had nothing to do with a “game”.

Can Kinect go beyond courses?

I believe the answer is a resounding yes.  Beyond just the whole virtual world experience, you can use Kinect technology with Leap Motion technology (more on that in a sec.).

Why limit your LMS to what it is today? Why have a virtual classroom that in essence is a web conferencing tool where you “aren’t really there”?  With Kinect technology, you can be in your LMS in a manner of speaking.  Granted, the LMS would have to appear differently – but it is possible.

Leap Motion

I’m a major early adopter. One that marketing folks often drool over. If it is brand new or about to be released, I’m there ready to buy, cash in hand – okay, credit card.

As a result, I went out, ordered and received the Leap Motion product, which is a touch free device for your computer.  In essence it works this way:

  • Small device with infrared that is connected to your computer/laptop via a USB (works with 3.0/2.0)
  • Enables you to download apps – free and fee based to use with the product
  • Allows you the ability to use only your hands in various ways without ever touching the keyboard, mouse or screen
  • 3D motion capability

Examples include the ability to create music, play the piano, games, paint and much more.

Frankly it is an amazing product.  That said, I have found some minor issues.

  • Seems that the really cool apps are fee based
  • Because it is infrared, the device must always be dust free, which means wiping it with a screen cloth or similar on a daily basis – it will pick up even micro dust that you may not see
  • If it picks up areas that are over bright, it doesn’t work that well, this could be your room lights, sunlight and even if you use other devices that emit a bright light (from the device perspective)
  • It does not work with USB hubs, so you have to attach it your laptop/computer USB. I even found that it didn’t work when I attached it to my cooling device under my laptop which uses USB 3.0
  • The gesturing movement is a work in progress, sometimes it works great, other times not so much – part of this I believe is due to some of the apps – for example, the PowerPoint one which enables you to change slides, point to areas of slides (think a laser pointer) and highlight words with only your hands without use of mouse or pointer, doesn’t always work

Without a doubt this product offers real possibilities for e-learning, so much so, that if it can gain critical mass (from consumers) then it will be a big winner.

From the online learning perspective, critical mass while ideal is not the make or break for the product, because of what it could or can do from the designer build and thus, from the leaner as well.

On the designer side, I see immediate wins

  • Create your own app to use with the product, from a “how to” to “software tutorial” to “interactive real life scenarios”, etc.
  • If an authoring tool can utilize this technology, think about what can be achieved without using a mouse, keyboard or even touching the screen
  • Designing interactive courses, that truly are immersive – tie it to Kinect technology OR without it – both are doable

Learner side

  • Gesture recognition
  • Immersion within a course without worrying about other peripherals that must be included (exception: leap motion device)
  • As the technology advances, mobile clearly comes into play – why touch your screen if you don’t have to — from learner side
  • Interactive gaming with learning objectives – real interaction and engagement

Two other emerging technologies that Zing

  • Voice Recognition
  • Mobile messaging packages

Voice Recognition

If you have ever used the product Dragon Dictation you would have come to realize that while it has some coolness to it, having to say the words followed by “period. Space, Space” or “new paragraph” as you are saying it (to make it appear as it is on the screen) is cumbersome and irritating.

Plus if words are similar in pronunciation, you may get the wrong word written down.

However, as technology advances so will voice recognition.  With e-learning, I would love to say “add widget” or “add video to course and move it to center of the course” and then the product does it. 

How many times do you look at a course or a LMS or an e-learning tool and say to yourself what are going to do/plan to do and then have to do it – via the keypad or mouse?

Wouldn’t it be easier just to say it?  I  know from a learner side it opens up some really cool interaction.

Mobile messaging apps

Text messaging for event management is extremely rare in the LMS world. Text messaging for notifications on taking a course, follow up, etc. – is also extremely rare.

Also with many data plans SMS is not free.  But with the mobile messaging apps, all the capabilities within the product are free, including phone calls.

How popular are mobile messaging apps today?

  • The biggest market in the MM space is Asia.  Line which is a mobile messaging app just passed 200 million users (worldwide)(CNet)
  • Message Me which launched in March 2013, has over 1 million active users
  • WhatsApp which is the most popular in the U.S., processed 27 billion messages in one 24 hour period
  • Kakao Talk users send 5.2 billion messages a day

Line from Japan is an interesting mobile messaging app because it offers digital sticker packs.  If you are thinking “what’s the big deal about that”, well the company made 18 million dollars of those digital sticker packs in just one quarter.

The one downer on mobile messaging apps is that it typically requires the other person to have the same app. That said, at least one “Just.me” doesn’t have that requirement.

Features seen in most of the mobile messaging apps

  • Create groups (Line enables you to have up to 100 people at the same time)
  • Send text, video, photos, images
  • Make phone calls (most of them have this capability, but not all – example WhatsApp)
  • Free not only to download, but use  – i.e. unlimited voice, video, photos, phone calls, etc.
  • Send voice messages
  • Requires internet connection
  • Message Me – End users can also send a doodle, video (inc. sending it from YouTube without leaving the app), location update or music (including sending it from iTunes, without leaving the app)
  • Just.me – If the other person doesn’t have the Just.me app they can still see your stuff via their own e-mail or if they have SMS capability – via their own SMS
  • Line – Games (from Line), digital stickers
  • Kakao Talk – Share calendar, goes through your contacts to find other KT folks who are also online (Viber, also does this as well)

Benefit for E-Learning

Simply put, learning management systems and the way information is disbursed to learners.  Seems like a no-brainer to me, with the exception I can see with phone calls – but then again, some vendors offer the ability to add Skype to their system.

Bottom Line

These four types of emerging technology are immediately applicable to e-learning.  While some are in the potential stage (but still can be utilized), others are screaming “pick me, pick me”.

Granted a few are really ideal for e-learning vendors. But a couple can be used by consumers in the space.

What is stopping someone to say, “let’s try it out?”

Well, I have some thoughts on this – but at least from the vendor perspective it always seems to come down to demand (although some will say cost).

But if the demand is there, the cost will become less of a factor.

So, let’s get the demand rolling.

You can guarantee I’ll be the one cheering you on – with my kinect technology, leap motion device and mobile messaging app.

E-Learning 24/7