Adventures in new-age learning: from the humble slate board to Product Management Fundamentals

 

Perhaps I’m giving my age away but I distinctly remember using a slateboard to learn my alphabet. The writing tool was not quite a calcium carbonate-based chalkpiece – it was a thinner version, called balapa in Kannada, producing a squeaky sound as it snaked across the board.

It’s amazing to see slateboard-sized tablets in the hands of toddlers today – these digital chalkboards are rewiring their brains in ways we don’t yet fathom. Add the software component of e-learning to this hardware and a learner is all set to learn anytime, anywhere.

Learning to build e-learning

I’ve been fortunate enough to witness the dawn of the e-learning era way back in the late 90s and early noughties. As part of the merry band of warriors at Intel‘s Internet Business Services, we worked on some of the earliest MOOCs for lawyers (law.com) and teachers (Teachscape). As we spent long hours figuring out how to program video markers in client-side script and convert cassette tapes (another yesteryear artefact now firmly in the bin) to digital files for professional e-learning courses, few of us realised that we were laying the foundations of the multi-billion dollar businesses of today.

Learning by doing

Product Management, as I’ve learned through my recent course with the Institute of Product Leadership (IPL), is both an art and a science. Product Managers bring a market-oriented and analytical approach as well as industry-standard tools and techniques to delight users and launch successful products. “Learning by doing” is the Institute’s mantra and the endeavour is to build a student portfolio of actual projects and assets that can be showcased to prospective employers. Project Managers, Engineering leaders and even Product Managers flock to the institute, eager to get a handle on the structures and frameworks of product management.

IPL is one of the many new-age schools experimenting with flipped classrooms and other models to accelerate learning and make it sticky for their students, all busy mid-career executives. My company Clearly Blue worked with IPL to launch “Product Management Fundamentals”, the first of many e-learning courses on the tools of the product ecosystem. It was a revelation to work alongside the Subject Matter Expert (SME) Rahul Abhyankar on creating the content for the course – his meticulous nature and attention to detail ensured very high quality output during all phases of the course creation. Post-creation, we teamed up with the ebullient Rohan Krishna to create the go-to-market collateral for the course. The end result can be seen here – and, insert blatant marketing pitch – 4 stars from over 3500 enrolments is something to be proud of.

Doing!

It was a great prelude to the series of courses we’re working on launching for IPL and other learning providers – spanning the breadth of emerging technologies, product and project management and other bleeding edge topics.

Through this work, our team has come to understand well the nuances of creating an e-learning course – the pre-production planning, course design, scripting and storyboarding, the during-production support as well as the post-production blending of videos with the storyboards, quality checks, animations, assessments and more. Through all these varied activities, one underlying thread reigns supreme – quality content. If the core content has been structured well and is able to communicate the subject in simple, concise terms, we all win – the SME, the e-learning team, the production company and most importantly, the learner.

Learning to fall through space

What does the future hold? Augmented reality learning is something I’ve been thinking of lately. Imagine being able to walk amongst the stars, literally, or fall through space as you gaze upon a red dwarf. Imagine sitting in on a meeting of the planning of the Manhattan Project, or a rehearsal of a play that Shakespeare was directing. Imagine walking through the dense jungles of the Western Ghats and stepping into a sacred grove, all from your neighbourhood e-learning centre, college or school.

Straight out of the movies, reality soon!

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