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How to design good educational apps for the iPhone

Yes, the iPhone is a wonderful educational device, but the current crop of apps in the iTunes store are nothing to sing about. In this article I reflect upon some observations I made after seeing my 5-year old daughter use some of these apps. I then describe some qualities of good educational apps and hope that this will start a conversation to improve the practice.

Experience-Enabling Design: An approach to elearning design

The paper contends that thinking only about the functional aspects of elearning hampers our experience outlook. It identifies strategies to overcome this conflict and to successfully engage today's learners. Through a range of examples from diverse areas such as print, documentation, presentation, and elearning, the paper illustrates how deliberate attempt to think beyond mere functionality, makes an obvious difference to the experience of the output. The cues from these examples provide directions to build elearning products that are functionally sound and experientially engaging.

Interactive Decision Objects

Here's something that the three of us did almost two years ago. Interactive Decision Objects are interactive decision making frameworks. They are designed to be used in a collaborative setting with the sole aim of getting things done: be it making strategy decisions, exploring information management choices, analyzing cultural differences, etc. You can download the demo kit and play with the five IDOs we've created.

Dan Saffer: Why I Blog my Postgrad Course

Meet Dan Saffer. He’s pursing a master’s degree in interaction design at Carnegie Mellon. I’ve never met Dan, nor are we virtual friends, but I know a lot about his course: not just about his curriculum, but about the classes he attends, the activities he does, the reading list he gets, the guest lecturers he meets, and the projects he does. No, I don’t practice telepathy: it’s just that Dan blogs his course.

Now, I know that I’m learning at lot from Dan’s blog, odannyboy, but what about Dan: How does blogging the course affect his learning? I interviewed him to find that out.

Notes from KM Asia 2003

The KM Asia 2003 conference was held in Singapore on 4-6 November. Thanks to the Ark Group, the conference organizers, I got a press pass to attend the conference. Here are my notes on the conference.

Going the “Simulation Way”: Q&A with Clark Aldrich

E-learning has a special kind of love for simulations. It’s not the head-over-heels, holding-hands variety, but the “Intolerable Cruelty” type of awe, respect and admiration variety, where the love is in the tension of the interaction. And all the audience (learners in our case) wants is for them to “just do it.”

Clark Aldrich has done just that. He’s gone ahead and created a leadership simulation, Virtual Leader, and written a book, Simulations and the Future of Learning, to share his experiences in creating the simulation and to offer a roadmap for those interested in going the “simulation way.”

Having read his book and gone through Virtual Leader, I’m beginning to fully appreciate the value of simulations, and more importantly, the thrill of learning.

Here’s a Q&A with Clark that focuses on getting detailed insights for going the simulation way.

5 Questions with Gerry McGovern

I had the opportunity to query Gerry McGovern, widely acknowledged web content guru, on some knowledge management and e-learning issues that were bothering me. Here is the short Q&A session I had with him. Gerry's two books, Web Content Style Guide and Content Critical, are required reading for anyone interested in creating user-centered content. His website has tons of information on web content design. While your 're there, check out his popular New Thinking newsletter too.

Interactive Visual Explainers-A Simple Classification

There is a subtle movement taking shape in online journalism. It is movement that is borne out of the desperate need to engage and excite news consumers in the post-information age. Dissemination of information and news breaking has given way to interaction, participation and involvement of consumers in news making. It is called interactive journalism or visual journalism. In this article we analyze one of its experiments -- Interactive Visual Explainers, or simply Interactives. We create a simple classification of Interactives to help us understand and apply the benefits of this practice in other fields.

Learning by Design

Learning design is an ill-structured domain. Only reflective experimentation can reveal what works and what does not. Even then, what works in one situation may not work in another. But insights gleaned from such experiments do find their way into common practice, making it more robust and more attuned to meet current requirements. “Learning by Design” is Stuart’s experiment with e-learning design. It is ironical that Stuart chooses to remain anonymous (see reason below) but we all can benefit from his observations. - Maish Nichani (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address))

Stuart, Senior Learning Designer for a leading UK bespoke e-learning company (Stuart chooses to remain anonymous as his ideas do not necessarily reflect those of his company). Stuart can be contacted at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Q&A with Professor Karen Stephenson

Social Network Analysis (SNA) has been blogrolled a lot recently. SNA methods and tools are a hot topic. Whether for analyzing the spread of a virus or the spread of corporate rumors, interest in SNA is at an all time high. A few days ago, I was fortunate to have a conversation with Professor Karen Stephenson, early pioneer and world-renowned expert in the field. I took the opportunity to interview her on SNA topics around learning networks. Here is the edited version of that interview.

The Art of the Quick Reference

There's something seductive about the promise of the words "quick reference". Perhaps it's the hope that there is a silver bullet to quickly solve our problems. Perhaps it harkens back to baseball card collections. Perhaps we just like gadgets. Whatever the reason, we have found quick reference cards and booklets to be popular with management and end users alike. Here we share some options and considerations for making the most of quick references, both paper and electronic, in a corporate training setting.

10 Damaging E-learning Myths

Make no mistake about it, the e-learning industry is going through troubled times. The current economic climate isn�t conducive to providing top quality e-learning and there are mixed opinions about the success of this type of training. We can argue about the causes of this phenomenon forever. However, this article presents 10 damaging myths that we feel are contributing to the problems facing our industry. These myths seem to be spreading at an infectious pace. This list isn�t intended as a criticism of any existing e-learning company � we have tremendous admiration for anyone who works in this difficult industry. Rather, this list gives us an opportunity to look again at the assumptions and beliefs that have come to define our dealings with customers.

Framing Learner Personas

This article introduces a requirements-gathering strategy known as "personas." This is widely used in Information Architecture (IA) to design user-centered solutions. In e-learning design, personas can be useful in analyzing learners needs and habits—the needs lead to the design of effective instruction; habits lead to the design of effective contexts.

Interview with Bob Boiko

IQPC (Asia) hosted an Intranet Content Management Conference last month. I had the opportunity to attend this conference and listen to the likes of Bob Boiko, author of Content Management Bible, and Gerry McGovern, author of Content Critical. I took this opportunity to interview Bob Boiko on content management issues revolving around e-learning. He is currently experimenting with e-learning at the Information School, University of Washington, where he teaches classes about information systems and the organizations that produce them.

KM Asia 2002 ReportFirst published July 18, 2002 - Mais

The Knowledge Management Asia 2002 conference is in town again. It is quite different from last year's conference in some expected ways. The attendee numbers are down, but not by much; the buzz and the excitement are down, but this could be related to the current economic climate, if not blame it on the after effects of the World Cup; there are more case-studies, showing that many KM experiments are in the "go-live" stage; and many of the case studies are very similar, revealing the stage of patterns.

Tea Chapter Conversations

In an age where office workers are dubbed as being SAD (Stuck At Desk), social spaces from tea houses to cafeterias and from water coolers to smoking rooms can not only provide a welcome reprieve from the desk but can also act as a catalyst in starting conversations. This article looks at issues that make a tea house environment a conversation-friendly place.

Hard talk with Thiagi

We talk with Dr. Sivasailam "Thiagi" Thiagarajan on effective instructional strategies for creating engaging content.

Empathic Instructional Design

Critics of e-learning are quick to point out that many course offerings are nothing but digital page-turners. Some refer to the act of taking an e-learning course as "e-reading." Many reasons are attributed to this prevalent condition—from time and budget constraints to limitations of traditional instructional design. We feel another important reason is the lack of exposure to alternative practices. In this article, we take cues from Interaction Design, Usability Engineering and Product Design on a process known as empathic design, a user-centered approach to design that can lead to innovative e-learning.


The Government e-learning Summit 2002 was held in Singapore last week. The conference was organized by IQPC and was the first of its kind in this region. Speakers from the Australian Army, the Hong Kong Police, Correctional Services of Canada, Singapore Power, etc. spoke on their e-learning efforts. The following is our report on this conference.

Communities of practice at the core

The notion of communities of practice, or CoPs, is at the heart of many epistemological theories of workplace learning. These days, the spotlight is on virtual CoPs, or technology-enabled CoPs. And, thanks largely to the Internet, many CoP solutions exist. But, building and sustaining a CoP takes more than just acquiring the technology. The "build it and they will come", or in this case, "build it and they will share knowledge" attitude completely ignores the fundamentals of human interaction. In this paper, I draw on research done by the likes of John Seely Brown, Paul Duguid, Larry Prusak, Don Cohen, Malcolm Gladwell, Julian Orr, and others, to bring out some of the often neglected social aspects of CoPs.

Report from “Ba” - KM Asia 2001

The Knowledge Management Asia 2001 conference was held in Singapore last week. The conference was organized by the Ark Group, and was the first of its kind to be held in the Asia-Pacific region. The programme included presentations and case studies by some of the most respected companies in KM such as BP, IBM, World Bank, Andersen, Buckman, etc. The following is our report on some interesting presentations.

Blending information and instruction

In his book, E-Learning: Strategies for Delivering Knowledge in the Digital Age, Marc Rosenberg, identifies "information" as being an equally important part of learning as "instruction" is. In this article, I analyze some practical implementations of systems that blend these two aspects of learning—a concept that seems to be catching on with many LMS vendors these days.

Teaching an online course - the debriefing: Dr. Arsham

We recently caught up with Dr. Hossein Arsham, a Wright Distinguished Research Professor of Statistics and Management Science at University of Baltimore. He is fresh from the experience of teaching two courses of the first all-online accredited Web MBA programme. In this interview, we aim to distill from his unique experience, some finer points of teaching and learning online.

Serendipitous learning

"Serendipity" is the key word that comes to mind on reading the above verse. And serendipitous experiences is what the Web is all about too. For example, when I browse for books at Amazon.com, I usually end up buying serendipitously. And I do the same at eBay too. In fact, a part of my browsing experience is an eager wait to be inspired by the unexpected. And I'm sure you've had similar experiences. In this article, I will try to explore some of this phenomena, and relate it to the design of online learning environments.

Grassroots KM through blogging

The blend of KM and e-learning initiatives is on every CLO's (Chief Learning Officer) agenda these days. The pitch is that, KM wrapped e-learning will enable instant sharing and flow of strategic information, or knowledge, seamlessly through all channels of the organization, ensuring a well informed workforce that can react to the vagaries of the new economy. In this article, we share our experiences with a strategy and technology so simple in design, that it could present the next wave of grassroots KM implementations. We are talking of the "storytelling" as the killer strategy, and "blogs" as the killer technology. Both of them share one common ground: grassroots interaction � a concept voiced by the likes of John Seely Brown, Larry Prusak, Steve Dennings, Dave Snowden, David Weinberger, among other prominent KM personalities.


Going by the current buzz in the industry, a pattern seems to be emerging that follows the above equation. Before we discuss what this means to the learner, or the instructional designer, let us first try to understand this equation. To make it simple, I am going to treat this more from the content side, and less from the management side.

Visual Design for Instructional Content (Part II)

In Part I of the article we analyzed Edward Tufte's principles of visualizing information. The second part of the article explores the use of comics as instructional content with specific reference to the work of comics creator and theoretician Scott McCloud. Again, while searching for information on the use of comics in instruction, we did not find many resources on this topic. This short article is an attempt to initiate a discussion on the possibilities and pitfalls of using comics in learning.

Visual Design for Instructional Content (Part I)

In an earlier article 'Monkey Instruction', we addressed the issue of effective writing for online instruction. We asked why some online courses are boring and analyzed a Webmonkey course to understand its writing style that makes it such a popular course. In planning for this article we looked at several resources, addressing disparate issues, conflicting theories, numerous principles, techniques and rules - that it was difficult to bring them all together in one article. Hence we have decided to tackle them in a series of parts, with each part devoted to one set of guiding principles or a specific resource. Part I of the article analyses Edward Tufte's principles of visualizing information.

Exclusive interview with Marc Prensky

We talk to Marc Prensky, author of Digital Game-Based Learning, on why he thinks game-based learning will be the next big wave to hit the e-learning shores.

Exclusive interview with Amy Jo Kim

We talk to Amy Jo Kim, author of Community Building on the Web: Secret Strategies for Successful Online Communities, on building and sustaining successful learning communities

Exclusive Interview with Donald Norman

We talk to Donald Norman on learner-centered design and other relevant issues.

A case for article-based discussions

What are article-based discussions? Well, the “Discuss” sections of this article is an example of one type of article-based discussions. They are used in many sites these days as a means to generate opinions and different perspectives from readers to make the article richer. In this article I build a case for the use of article-based discussions in learning environments.

Exclusive Interview with Professor David Jonassen

As the hype around e-learning continues, we get down to basics with Professor David Jonassen.

Jakob Nielsen on e-learning

Just how important is usability in e-learning? We ask usability guru Jakob Nielsen on this and other wide-ranging issues.

Monkey Instruction!

This article probes the usual question: Why are online courses so boring? And in doing so, aims to answer this complimentary question: Why are Webmonkey courses so interesting?

Using the Expert Exchange model in e-learning solutions

Surprised? Wondering what’s the connection between Expert Exchanges (EE’s) and e-learning? To bring out the connections, let’s start with some social learning theory basics…

Special Report: Deconstructing “Groove”

Groove is an open, real-time, peer-to-peer communication platform. Ray Ozzie, inventor of Groove, calls it “a platform for person-to-person-to-person collaboration with the spontaneity of e-mail that does not rely on larger, central computers, as Notes and other collaborative software do.” Groove is all over the news these days. Some articles have praised the new “platform”, but there are others that dismiss it as a new fad. Our task is to deconstruct Groove and explore its design for e-learning solutions.

Building Online Learning Communities

Community building on the Net is not an easy task. We are not talking of the difficulty in creating community-based products (the software), but of the difficulty in fostering and maintaining online relationships . Communities is about the people, and not about the tools that enable communication. In the following sections, we will guide you through resources on the Net that you can explore to learn about building online communities, be it for business or learning.