The work of others

I wanted to just highlight a few companies that offer eLearning software services. I need to further analyse them all and apply the learning to my practice work.

CCS Digital Education

CCS Digital Education


Cengage is a leading eLearning provider aimed at the k-12 professional and library markets.

“What you learn is not remembered, it is known!”


Smartsparrow, are all about customized interactive content including visualizations. The software assesses a users learning style and then amends the content delivering method and speed based on this continuous assessment.


Trends towards on-screen learning

It is true to say that online distance-learning courses are on the increase. Perhaps in part, or more than that, because of advancements in technology; the tools are becoming ever more readily available and affordable to facilitate sophisticated peer-reviewed online programmes to be developed. See my related post regarding the prototype O-Programme being developed by Microsoft for example.

Is this trend also, in part, due to the human race’s increased mobilisation, creating a need to study anywhere at any time? Also, in a society where we are encouraged to constantly better ourselves and strive towards better roles in employment there is an increased demand for e-learning courses, particularly for professional development.

I undertook some research focused on finding out a bit more about what’s hot in online learning at the moment. I hereby cite a number of industry experts and their opinions and experience on what will be the trends in 2016:

Cyril AndersonInstructional Designer

Cyril sees the hot topics of 2016 being ‘Just in time’ eLearning courses along with those that offer informal learning. Delivered as short, self contained corporate training modules.

In addition Cyril sees the increasing rise of MOOCs as platforms for continuing professional development (CPD). Cyril quotes Udacity and Udemy as companies at the forefront of these movements. I need to spend more time reviewing these two company to see how my practical work aligns with them both.

Interestingly Cyril also states that programs that deliver seamlessly integrated experiences across multi-devices and multi-screens are going to be on-trend. Devices that would be integrated to deliver eLearning will include:

  • Desktop pc’s
  • Tablets and mobile phones
  • Wearable technology, e.g. a watch (augmented reality)
  • In-car entertainment
  • Home entertainment consoles.

I would also mention glasses here as another form of wearable technology that could integrate with other e-Learning devices.


Dan ShafferS4 NetQuest CEO and co-founder

“I expect to see (a) trend toward delivering “just enough” coupled with “just in time” with significantly  more flexibility for deeper dives and/or widening scope; i.e. a lot more intelligent e-learning modules.”

My thoughts on this are: ‘just enough/in time’ is relevant for professional development perhaps and certainly commercially viable but not suitable for general education or indeed deep-learning.


Dipak sees the following as being key to evolving trends in e-learning:
1. Virtual Reality (VR)
2. Video-based learning

3. Mobile Learning
In a recent survey on the E-Learning, 88% of respondents thought they needed or said they absolutely needed their LMS to have mobile learning capabilities for tablet devices.
Only 10% of companies are heavy users of mobile learning functionality.  Expect that to change over the next few months as, not only are companies signaling an increased focus on mobile learning apps, but wider structural changes are happening as well. Almost 2 billion mobile phones are expected to ship in 2015 (compared to just 270 million PCs) and with such market penetration and with people using smart phones more than PCs to access the internet, this can only mean a bigger importance for mobile.
4. Social Media Learning
“Companies are using discussion forums, document sharing and blogs but they aren’t generally using video or micro-blogs—which are more effective—to improve their learning functions.”
5. Individualization
This goes beyond Personal Learning Environments, and into offering multiple paths for individual learners to complete a single training objective…
… Driven by Millennials’ desire for flexibility, and a results-oriented culture looking to make training time as effective as possible, expect 2015 to be the year more employers move away from one-size-fits all videos and recorded presentations, and towards individualized eLearning.
I have not considered the concept of eLearning through social media to date so this is something new to me and something I will look into further in terms of whether I can integrate this into my Practice 1 work. Some of my earlier blogs discuss the concept of individualisation, in particular I am looking at customisation of learning programme designs based on colour preferences.
My final point to note is something for me to really be mindful of going forward. E-learning by definition involves remote and potentially isolated learning. There is much to be said for the value seen in face-to-face collaboration between students and their peers and mentors. I am very keen to successfully design an e-learning concept that blends remote learning with human interaction.

(Accessed 29.12.15)
(Accessed 29.12.15)
(Accessed 01.01.16)


Working designs

Here are some historical designs that I will be building upon in my Practice 1 work. I previously designed the framework and templates for an online learning course. When I look back at these designs I can see that a number of the concepts described in my blog are to some extent existent in these designs. Use of colour and icons were employed to help navigate the learner and categorise content. In addition the layout of the course framework itself was very simple, clean and utilised some of the layout recommendations (such as the f-pattern) as highlighted in my post on layouts here.

I will apply further learning to these designs and perhaps use them as one of my design concepts in Practice 1.

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Re-usable Learning Objects

Glomaker is an open source authoring tool that builds on the extensive experience of the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) in Reusable Learning Objects and is free for educational use. The authoring tools on offer assist teachers or developers of e-learning (including mobile-learning) in creating Re-usable Learning Objects (RLO’s). Glomaker defines RLO’s as such:

“… in our approach, learning objects are focused on one clear learning goal or objective. They are designed to be a) pedagogically effective, and b) reusable. Our learning objects normally incorporate the use of interactive multimedia to create a rich, effective learning experience.”

The concept of designing e-learning modules or courses that are academically sound is in line with my desire to create content for deep-learning design.

I could use this tool as a basis for beginning to develop my own short e-learning course. It is of course only free for educational use so it’s not something that I could build into my employment projects, but it would ultimately inform real-world application through my place of work in the long-run.

Glomaker makes an important additional point in it’s introductory explanation of the service:

“The traditional approach to the reuse of learning objects has been to separate content from context in order to make the content reusable. However, it is not content but the quality of the learning design that is most important for effective learning. The generative learning object (GLO) approach thus inverts the traditional approach. It extracts successful pedagogical designs and makes these the basis for reuse.”

This mirrors some of my comments made in a number of my posts regarding the fact that visual design and layout is paramount to data-retention, not just the content. Poorly displayed content can confuse learners or bore them even. I guess the question I ask myself here is – do the visual design templates offered by Glomaker adhere to some of the cognitive visual research that I have undertaken in this blog? I will download a template and experiment …

Work of others

As my area of design focus is quite specialized it is tricky to find individual designers that I can seek inspiration from and compare my work to. As such I have sought design companies that specialize in e-learning. My recent post on the reviewing of textbooks also served as a means by which to analyze current designers of print textbooks.

As part of my research undertaken in this area, I have become aware of a number of highly sophisticated e-learning content developers which I will summarize in a number of blog posts and take learning points from, here’s a great company:


Sweetrush A

One of the most inspirational companies that I found was They offer an excellent service, comprised of customized content development services for learning and development professionals who need to create digital content for commercial consumption at part of a company’s Professional Development program.

Sweetrush are content developers who create, amongst other services, engaging training, interactive infographics, 3D visualizations, gamification, augmented reality and also host a social media and blogging site focused on e-learning:

Gamification is something that i am particularly interested in researching. I will be investigating Sweetrush’s contribution to this field further to enhance my understanding of the subject to help me develop a short e-learning game.

“We live for these projects. With gamification, we’re using game-based thinking, aesthetics, and mechanics to engage people, motivate action, promote learning, and solve problems. Our immersive simulations put learners in a virtual work environment where they practice, learn from mistakes, and get real-time coaching.”

Innovative e-learning content authoring service


Cerego provides content authoring tools and templates. They have created a product that exemplifies the notion of putting research into practice – Cerego have developed highly intelligent software that understands key aspects of deep-learning and works towards developing and strengthening a learner’s working memory.

“Cerego activates your memory just as it’s about to fade by tracking your performance on a memory-by-memory level, measuring pace, speed of response, and accuracy to predict the best time to review. The result is an experience optimized for each individual that leads to long-term retention – and a learning engine that gets more effective the more you use it.”

Cerego blend proven learning materials (such as scientific journal content) with web technology. Focusing particularly on neuroscience and cognitive science to enable learners to learn quicker and for longer. Cerego states that spaced rehearsal is key to retaining data and that lots of information over a short space of time doesn’t work. The Ebbinghaus curve shows that an optimal point of review does exist and that Cerego is programmed to take advantage of this. The program measures the memory of learners and predicts performance. This theory is reminiscent of the work conveyed by Dr John J. Medina in my recent post on working memory and solidify’s the concept of repetition being necessary to successfully retain data long-term.

Cerego A

I did test out one of the trial courses on offer and I didn’t actually get on with it. It was a music course with an aim to try and get me to remember different scales. The quality of visuals used was poor and hindered my comprehension. So whilst the surround tool was good, the actual content didn’t live up to expectation and was poor. This is reminiscent of a discussion had in my post that discussed whether a designer should be an actor or a pre-constructor. This example solidifies my belief that a designer should be a pre-constructor only.

Working designs

So I have started to experiment with designs towards my Practice 1 work. I thought i’d start with some designs for an e-textbook as this was my original brief. Going forward I will look to work on some e-learning platform designs as well because I am greatly interested in this area and I feel that there is work to be done on designing for deep learning in both digital publications and e-learning programs. I am also interested in making comparisons between printed textbooks and e-textbooks.

So I am struggling to create and upload a video in time for this project submission that shows the interactivity that my design offers so for now I will simply describe it and upload a video later. The design will also have evolved by then.

Below you can see the sample pages that I have created:

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I have created a design using real-life content that exists in a commercially available textbook (Note: This is not a live design project and is a mock-up for personal use only). I felt it important to use real-world content as I could manipulate imagined content to fit my purposes of conveying
design ease for deep learning. In this context I have to make real-life content fit a cognitively friendly layout.

In response to my research in this blog post on colour, I have not used too much colour throughout – just enough to differentiate between types of information and to either bring diagrams to life or act as a tool by which to ease the eye through multiple blocks of similar content (see figure D below).  I have reserved the use of orange as discussed in this blog post for an area of the book where content could be monotonous and difficult to maintain the readers attention. I may add more orange throughout this design going forward.

Figures A and B below show my use of different colours and also icons to help readers identify content types quickly on a page. I will look at using icons further going forward and seek research as to their effectiveness in guiding users through content. The web link is of course clickable in the etextbook and opens content in a new tab.

Additional info close-up
Figure A: Coloured ‘Additional research’ box
Supporting info close-up
Figure B: Coloured ‘Supporting info’ box

A feature that I added in response to some thoughts I had whilst researching the subject seen in this blog post regarding the Prototype O System is that of a notes feature. Although not a tool to facilitate context-enabled web searches, I am keen on designing content that allows users to make their own comments. Within my sample design, a user can add typed notes in the left margin. Going forward I will look at changing this to a handwritten note function (e.g. with a stylus) to ease note taking and make the process of annotation more intuitive and less clunky. See my blog post here regarding my research on using devices that emulate the paper-metaphor (the latter part of the post).

Make notes here close-up
Figure C: Interactive note area to the side of the content

A final area to highlight within this initial design is that of the timeline feature. The original text for this content was a couple of pages of bullet points. I became bored of reading the content very quickly and also lost my point within the bullet point hierarchy very quickly. Within my design I used alternating colour to aide navigation and the text block on the right on appear once you click on a year – helping learners to consume data at their own pace (a theme that has arisen in much research that I have undertaken).

Chronolgy close-up
Figure D: Timeline of data that expands as you click on the dates