Update on e-learning

This week I caught up with two good colleagues involved in e-learning. Nic Blackwell and I have collaborated many times and his company OCB Media is a beacon of quality in a market where there is such a lot of dull mediocrity. OCB specialises in medical and health programmes and we have worked together on a number of child and adolescent mental health projects. OCB has recently launched a new content management system (CMS) and new learning management system (LMS).
I also had a great conversation with Georgina Matson-Pippard of Epilepsy Action. George has recently produced e-learning around epilepsy, using a CMS called Storyline (also known by the trade name Articulate). Somehow I had omitted Storyline from my previous post, even though I spent much of last summer learning how to use it under the tuition of our talented intern Wingy.
The exciting thing I learned this week is this:
Both of the content management systems mentioned here give the option to export e-learning packages that will run on any device. They are clever enough to work out the browser capability and run on either Flash or HTML5. This is good news for our customers, who will be using a range of browsers and devices.
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Disrupting e-learning

When the ideas for Keep the Trust (KTT) were being developed at Innovation Labs, there was an understanding that any existing free resources, especially e-learning, would be used in the final product.

The challenge for the KTT team is that while the content and style of this existing e-learning is still relevant (it has recently been “blind” reviewed by two young ex service users) it is not flexible or user-centred enough on its current platforms. We think we need to create new content that can be accessed more easily and is available in much smaller units. So instead of, say. a two hour programme of four modules, with each module broken down into six sessions, we will create (including crowd-create) mini sessions of up to five minutes duration.

We’ve been reviewing some sites that offer flexible production and hosting methods for e-learning, by following recommendations from blogs and forums and clicking through on the sites that came up most often. (These sites typically offer both published online learning and the ability for authors or teachers to also create e-learning. There is usually a license fee, although some offer free software.) Here’s a selection:

Educator and The Khan Academy 

These are both too schools focused for KTT purposes. We also thought they looked a bit rigid and controlling for content creators! Lots of maths and science at the Khan Academy.


Udacity gives the user/author more freedom but its current content is focused heavily on business, technology and innovation – not a market place for KTT.

A British company we’ve used before, called CDSM, offers Pedagogue web based software, which unlike other programmes doesn’t just publish to their own learning platform or virtual learning environment (VLE). E-learning created in Pedagogue can be saved as a zip file and uploaded on to any website. See this example Self harm in children and young people on my own site.

We are tempted by Pedagaogue for its flexible hosting and interactivity (it’s also quite easy to learn the software). But an issue for KTT is that Pedagogue content runs on Flash and therefore won’t be available to Apple users.

Microsoft Content Learning Development System is free to use and also gives the option to create portable zip files. We really like the idea of learning snacks, which is where we are going with our content. But again the content is dependent upon Flash.

So far the favourite, offering social e-learning and a really modern interface is Udemy, using HTML5, which would solve our multi platform issue. Udemy describes itself below:

Udemy’s goal is to disrupt and democratize the world of education by enabling anyone to teach and learn online.

We like their style.

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Keep the Trust

1625tiny  Tech for youth is produced by social enterprise sixteen25, sister organisation to Cernis.

Innovation Labs co-produced the specifications for seven digital resources that will enhance young people’s mental health. Our team is developing Keep the Trust; we are: Yvonne, Katie, Nico, Lydia, Jonathon. This is the essential tool that every professional in youth-related services should have bookmarked on their desktop. Keep the Trust is aimed at non-mental health professionals working closely with young people who have emerging or existent mental health difficulties. The target group includes professionals such as home tutors, sports coaches, youth and community workers, as well as parents and carers.

We initially envisaged the product as likely to be a well curated site of all the resources already out there. But this vision ran counter to our intention to use a Lean Start-up approach, in which we propose to test our assumptions both about the market and the product, being prepared to pivot if those assumptions are invalidated.

So yesterday Katie and I, in having a free and open conversation with our mentor and evaluator James, uncovered our first assumption and agreed it couldn’t be validated. First pivot!

Why crowd-source the views of young people and professionals in order to understand what content is wanted, when we could use the same energy to crowd-create new content?

This was liberating and enabled us to think about disruptive tech. Now we will cut out unnecessary steps without compromising on customer development or young people’s involvement. We will crowd-source materials produced by both young people and professionals about mental health. Then we will crowd-create to fill the gaps. The materials are likely to be multi media, including video.

Curation will still be crucial in engaging users and ensuring they find what they want/need. We are now thinking about and looking for examples of the use of graphics to “picturefy” the curation.

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