eFront in Top 100 Tools for Learning 2013

Thank you to all our clients and users who voted for us!

The Top 100 Tools for Learning 2013 list (released 30 September 2013) was compiled from the votes of over 500 education and workplace learning professionals from 48 countries. For a fuller analysis, please visit Analysis 2013.

In this year’s list, Twitter retains its no 1 position – now for the 5th year running – then comes Google Drive/Docs at #2. PowerPoint moved up to #5 and Evernote moved into the top 10 at #6. Google + and Hangouts moved into the top 10 at #10 and eFront moved up 19 places to #67.  You can view a text list of the 100 Tools here along with the Slideshare presentation.

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10 eLearning buzzwords you need to know!

top-10In this post we’ve put together short descriptions of the top 10 buzzwords in eLearning at the moment: Tin Can, Social Learning, Gamification, mLearning, Tablet learning, Rapid eLearning, Microlearning, Personalization, Blended learning, and Lifelong learning.

Tin Can

The Tin Can API is a brand new learning technology specification that opens up an entire world of experiences (online and offline). This API captures the activities that happen as part of learning experiences. A wide range of systems can now securely communicate with a simple vocabulary that captures this stream of activities. Previous specifications were difficult and had limitations whereas the Tin Can API is simple and flexible, and lifts many of the older restrictions. Mobile learning, simulations, virtual worlds, serious games, real-world activities, experiential learning, social learning, offline learning, and collaborative learning are just some of the things that can now be recognized and communicated well with the Tin Can API. What’s more, the Tin Can API is community-driven, and free to implement.  (TinCanAPI.com)

For more on Tin Can check our previous posts listed on this page.

Social Learning

Social learning is learning that takes place through social interaction between peers and it may or may not lead to a change in attitudes and/or behavior. More specifically, to be considered social learning, a process must: (1) demonstrate that a change in understanding has taken place in the individuals involved; (2) demonstrate that this change goes beyond the individual and becomes situated within wider social units or communities of practice; and (3) occur through social interactions and processes between actors within a social network (Reed et al., 2010).

For more on Social Learning check our previous posts on-topic listed on this page.

Gamification

Karl Kapp, author of The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-Based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education, defines it as the use of game-based mechanics, aesthetics and game thinking to engage people, motivate action, promote learning and solve problems. He says it’s much more than just adding ‘rewards, points, and badges’ to processes to motivate people – it’s the instructional method and not just the delivery system that provides the elements for learning in a game situation i.e. we must ask what ‘pieces’ in games makes them engaging such as interactivity, content, story.

Gamification for Learning – Interview with Karl Kapp http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__Y1m8XF77k

mLearning

Mobile learning has been defined as: any sort of learning that happens when the learner is not at a fixed, predetermined location, or learning that happens when the learner takes advantage of the learning opportunities offered by mobile technologies.(Wikipedia) In other words mobile learning decreases limitation of learning location with the mobility of general portable devices. But mobile learning is more than just using mobile devices to learn – it is also about the mobility of the learner.

For more on mLearning check out our previous posts listed here.

Tablet or T-learning

Tablet leaning by definition is learning on tablet devices. But is eLearning on tablets really mobile learning? Yes.

In defining mobile learning we need to focus more on the activity of learning at a distance using a mobile device and not on the devices themselves. Tablets are mobile devices – but perhaps not as ubiquitously mobile as smartphones. Tablets have more in common with the desktop and laptop than with the mobile phone when it comes to screen size, yet the touchscreen capabilities of both the tablet and the phone mean that learning design needs to take into account these differences in delivery.

For more on T-learning check this list of related blog posts!
We also love this great post in Mashable – 6 Reasons Tablets Are Ready for the Classroom.
For different opinions on whether eLearning on tablets is mLearning read:
Is eLearning on Tablets Really mLearning’ and ‘Is eLearning on Tablets Really mLearning [Chime In]’ by RJ Jacquez.

Rapid elearning

Rapid elearning is, essentially, a faster process of designing and developing online-based learning courses. Rather than spending months or years developing a course, rapid elearning allows course creators to build lessons and content in a matter of days or weeks. This is typically done through PowerPoint or narrated videos which are designed to dispense information quickly and conveniently to the students. Software is then utilized to test the students, as well as to provide them with activities that they can perform on their own in between pre-recorded presentations or videos.

Microlearning

Microlearning provides the knowledge and skill sets that online education typically offers without overwhelming the learner. It involves learning in smaller steps, and goes hand-in-hand with traditional elearning. Activities that are micro-learning based usually feature short term lessons, projects or coursework that is designed to provide the student with bits of information. For example, rather than trying to teach a student about a broad subject at once, aspects of the topic will be broken down into smaller, more digestible chunks.

Typically, microlearning exercises are best utilized at the point where a student will actually need the information, or when they are going to be most receptive to receiving that information.

Personalization

Personalized elearning enables learners to customize a variety of the elements involved in the online education process. This means that they are asked to set their own goals, go at their own pace, and communicate with instructors and learners to personalize the learning process. Ideally, the learner is placed in charge of managing his/her own learning, and is able to customize the experience by having a direct say in the processes and content that is being provided.

The key elements that are customized in personalized elearning are: the timing and pace of learning, and the instructional approach (including lessons and activities that draw upon the learner’s experiences and interests). In other words, truly personalized elearning means students are given the chance to learn what they want when they want, and even how they will learn the material.

Blended Learning

Blended learning is a formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online delivery of content and instruction with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace. While still attending a “brick-and-mortar” school structure, face-to-face classroom methods are combined with computer-mediated activities. Proponents of blending learning cite the opportunity for data collection and customization of instruction and assessment as two major benefits of this approach. (Wikipedia)

Read: The Definition Of Blended Learning

Lifelong learning

Lifelong learning is the “ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated”[1] pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons. Therefore, it not only enhances social inclusion, active citizenship and personal development, but also competitiveness and employability.[2]

The term recognizes that learning is not confined to childhood or the classroom but takes place throughout life and in a range of situations. During the last fifty years, constant scientific and technological innovation and change has had a profound effect on learning needs and styles. Learning can no longer be divided into a place and time to acquire knowledge (school) and a place and time to apply the knowledge acquired (the workplace).[3] Instead, learning can be seen as something that takes place on an on-going basis from our daily interactions with others and with the world around us. (Wikipedia)

(1.) Department of Education and Science (2000). Learning for Life: White Paper on Adult Education. Dublin: Stationery Office. (2.) Commission of the European Communities: “Adult learning: It is never too late to learn“. COM(2006) 614 final. Brussels, 23.10.2006. (3.) Fischer, Gerhard (2000). “Lifelong Learning – More than Training” in Journal of Interactive Learning Research, Volume 11 issue 3/4 pp 265-294.

efront LMS integration with Facebook

Lately we’ve been talking a lot about using Facebook as a learning platform. Social is integral to learning in the workforce today – and learning platforms need to be able to support formal and informal, personalized and social learning. We took that into consideration with the eFront platform which comes with a rich set of social tools that facilitate the communication and social learning process together with an easy-to-use Facebook integration plugin.

Facebook Integration

eFront allows users to connect to the platform via their Facebook account. By using the Facebook connection some info from Facebook is transferred to efront (specifically the user status and avatar). If the eFront user changes his/her status this change is also reflected on his/her Facebook profile.

The administrator enables the Facebook integration though the system settings and the Facebook tab (in ‘External tools’) by entering the Facebook API key and secret code. The admin can then choose to allow connection with Facebook, Facebook data acquisition (avatar and status exchanges) and the external login to eFront through a Facebook account.

The basic steps to create the FB integration are outlined below, or you can go directly to our wiki page for more on social extensions.

1. Go to http://developers.facebook.com/ and click on “Create new App”

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2. Give a name to the application

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3. Below is an example of settings you have to set up. Save your API Key and secret code because you will need it to enable the connection.

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4. Go to eFront as admin and select: System Settings -> External tools -> Facebook. Add the API key and secret code and enable all Facebook options

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5. Logout of eFront. You should now see a new option to login with your Facebook account!

Competition Finalist 3: Social Learning Applied

This post was submitted by Kalliopi Sigala.

Social Learning. Buzz word, right? Well, yes and no. The truth is somewhere in the middle. To get down to it, let’s see some actual facts and concepts that can be useful in the real world, and not just for the hype of it.

First, a quick recap. Social Learning is one of the four trending topics in the e-Learning industry right now (others being Mobile, Gamification and Bit-Size eLearning). Sure, these are buzzwords also, but the truth is that these three are easily digestible when it comes to thinking applications to learning processes and e-learning technologies. Social Learning is vague. Roberta Gogos previously posted a great definition of what social learning is, but where do we go from here? How can we use Social Learning concepts to leverage the learning process and improve the average learning curve?

Sometimes you do not have to do anything. You know, things just happen. Students communicate with each other either within the context of learning or not. They interact, and collectively develop a deeper understanding of the subject than the average individual would. But why not enhancing this natural social activity to amplify its effect? And how?

The instructor is the key, as it has always been. Creating hubs of communication and interaction within social networks can provide instructors with an entry point to stimulate social interaction, and students a place where they can initiate on their individual quest; either for deeper comprehension, or for supporting fellow students and learning as a side-effect of the process. Hooking up with wider related communities or structures will also help student groups (even if we are talking about micro-groups) to relate and indulge into sharing and learning.

Technology is also a prime factor. Let’s face it; there is no “learning” today without a bit of “e-” in front of it. Technology gives instructors the means to reach out to students. But, It should also provide the means for students to reach out to each other. In most cases, it does so. Online social networks have helped a lot, but any type of system should promote interaction among students and among communities, and if possible, do so in a learning-oriented manner. Control should move away from the instructor and be handed to the student, and technology should enable to do exactly this. Depending on the actual subject, Social Learning also moves away from the Objectivistic way of teaching and towards an approach resembling Constructivism theory with a social twist. In plain English; both the learning process as well as the tools used for it, should enable the student to discover and experience knowledge through interaction with others.

If we were to place current technology and services on a map, it would probably look like the following figure.

So, where does this leave us in regards to the actual choices we make as instructors or technology providers? Well, here is a penny’s worth fragment of wisdom:

  1. Focus on interactivity, either within context or out of it. Do not hesitate to use existing social networks (online or offline) to do so.
  2. Use e-Learning technology that provides for interactivity among learners. Technology that integrates well with existing online social networks will be a great plus and will help to provoke inter-group extended learning through all available channels of communication.
  3. Ignite interaction, as an instructor, by utilizing the above on a regular basis.
  4. Provide for cross-group interaction with domain-specific communities.

Social Learning may be “fuzzy” and “buzzy” at the moment. Nonetheless, it is something real. Beyond canned courses and test. The notion that through social interaction comes a deeper understanding of things is true, as it always was. But in our social era, it is more important than ever.

“There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti

What is social learning?

‘Social learning’ has been the elearning buzzword du jour for a couple of years now and people often ask us exactly what social learning is. I think Marcia Conner captures it perfectly in her definition as follows:

Social learning is learning that takes place through social interaction between peers and it may or may not lead to a change in attitudes and/or behavior. More specifically, to be considered social learning, a process must: (1) demonstrate that a change in understanding has taken place in the individuals involved; (2) demonstrate that this change goes beyond the individual and becomes situated within wider social units or communities of practice; and (3) occur through social interactions and processes between actors within a social network (Reed et al., 2010).

Researchers have defined social learning in multiple, overlapping ways and confused social learning with the conditions and methods necessary to facilitate social learning or its potential outcomes. It is important to distinguish social learning as a concept from the conditions or methods that may facilitate social learning and the potential outcomes of social learning processes.

If learning is to be considered “social learning,” then it must:

  • Demonstrate that a change in understanding has taken place in the individuals involved. This may be at a surface level (recalling new information) or deeper levels (change in attitudes, beliefs).
  • Go beyond the individual to become situated within wider social units or communities of practice within society.
  • Occur through social interactions and processes within a social network, either through direct interaction (conversation) or through other media (social media).

As such, social learning may be defined as a change in understanding that goes beyond the individual to become situated within wider social units or communities of practice through social interactions between actors within social networks. (Reed et al., 2010)

Social is integral to learning in the workforce today – and learning platforms need to be able to support formal and informal, personal and social learning. We will be looking at all of these approaches in coming posts so stay tuned!

References

Reed, M. S., A. C. Evely, G. Cundill, I. Fazey, J. Glass, A. Laing, J. Newig, B. Parrish, C. Prell, C. Raymond and L. C. Stringer. 2010. What is Social Learning?. Ecology and Society 15 (4): r1. [online] URL: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol15/iss4/resp1/

The Democratic Workplace

When we hear the word “democracy” we usually think “politics.” So how is organizational politics different? Worldblu.com (a global network of organizations committed to practicing freedom and democracy in the workplace) explains the difference perfectly: “Organizational democracy is a system of organization that is based on freedom, instead of fear and control. It’s a way of designing organizations to amplify the possibilities of human potential — and the organization as a whole. The concept of democracy comes from the Greek words “demos” and “kratein” which mean “the people rule”. So the core of organizational democracy and political democracy is the same — allowing people to self-govern and determine their own destiny. What is different is the context — one is in the political arena, the other is in the realm of organizations.”

In a democratic workplace relationships are peer-to-peer rather than parent-child. The democratic workplace environment thrives on accountability, transparency, choice and the decentralization of power. And the result of this is that people are empowered so that their full potential is unlocked to contribute to the organization in an effective and meaningful way.

Worldblu.com (referred to above) talks about the core principles of a democratic workplace, and one of the core principles is the transparency of information – this may include the transparency of financial information, agenda and strategy. When information is transparent, employees can then have the information they need to make smart, empowered decisions – and that contributes to greater efficiency and innovation. Transparency contributes to trust and it also makes people feel that they matter – that they are valued, empowered and given a voice.

Bureaucracy often serves to hide innovative ideas and creativity whereas a transparent, democratic company is much more innovative and that translates to the bottom line – democratic companies can adjust to market changes, they have higher productivity and efficiency, and lower absenteeism – obviously making it a better strategic model for a company.

So, what are the implications for learning in the workplace?

With transparency comes conversation – and with conversation comes a more engaged organization. Effective workplace learning requires this engagement and Enterprise 2.0 and Social Business are founded on organizational democracy. Under traditional command & control management neither can thrive, and organizational change cannot take place. And organizational learning is fundamental change.

Author Peter Senge talks about five disciplines in his classic book, The Fifth Discipline (1990), which focuses on group problem solving using the ‘systems thinking method’ in order to convert companies into learning organizations. The five disciplines represent approaches for developing the following core learning capabilities: fostering aspiration, developing reflective conversation, and understanding complexity. This book dates back to 1990, yet this is still not what we see in learning organizations today. Our social systems (inside and outside the work environment) are not designed to cope with complexity and change – in other words, learning. Therefore, we need to rethink, reorganize and redesign – and adopt a democratic workplace, replacing hierarchy with a flattened organization so that communication channels are opened, employees become engaged and learning can take place.

In “Why aren’t we all working for Learning Organisations?,” the authors John Seddon and Brendan O’Donovan conclude:

“Our argument is that Deming’s statements in his 1990 review of Senge’s work continue to hold true: it is the dominance of the command and control management thinking which, 20 years on, still prevails and prevents the development of more generative learning. It is only by studying an organisation as a system and creating double-loop learning [real critical thinking] that we might finally see Senge’s ‘learning organizations’ stop being the exceptional and instead become the norm.”

By @rgogos