Free Engineering Technology Simulations for Learning

Engineering Technology is and always will be a growing field.  It is what sparks innovation in the manufacturing industry and drives economic success.  Eastern Iowa Community Colleges recognized this and sought a Department of Labor grant that aimed to teach engineering concepts in an innovative way.  Enter Lucid Way; an online training and elearning company in Moline, IL.

Owner at Lucid Way, Tim Hunter explained that “It’s a capstone project of everything we do as a company. Projects like this are challenging, creative, fun, and rewarding.  By helping a person or school with these hard to understand topics in engineering, we are in a lot of ways helping our own future.” Lucid Way was an integral part of designing the online instructional delivery at the college.

The project takes simple STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) subjects that are normally taught with a chalkboard or a book, and transforms them into an interactive 3D model that explains the inner workings of various engineering technology topics.  The website has over 150 simulations that can be downloaded or embedded into a learning management system, website, or be viewed on a classroom project.  Everything is free and is available under a Creative Commons license.

The Associate in Applied Science Degree at EICC is designed so that roughly the first three semesters are identical and students can take courses at any of the three colleges. In the final semester, the student has the choice of specializing in four different areas: Automation, Electro/Mechanical, Process Control or Renewable Energy.  These courses are delivered with a hybrid approach that works for both people in the workforce and full time students. The courses are offered through the online platform of the Iowa Community College Online Consortium (ICCOC), and a classroom/hands-on lab environment.  Students can enter the course at any given time throughout the year and instructors are available every day and night to help the students with their lab work. This unique approach allows students to complete the courses around their own schedules, but also get the personal face-to-face contact with instructors that is often lacking in fully online courses.

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 7.41.35 AM

The engineer technology website offers over 150 engineering simulations and is free to use and distribute.

7 Simple Tips for Developing E-learning Training

7 Simple Tips for Developing E-learning Training

We’ve been busy working on some new projects.  One thing we strive for always is our user interface and usability.  It cannot be underestimated.  Unfortunately, you find many online courses and e-learning training doing the wrong things which ultimately shuts the learner down and puts them into the “just get this done” mode – rather than “I want to learn more” mode.

A few things we always keep in mind when designing our e-learning interfaces:

  1. Audience – Are they computer savvy?  Are they an older demographic?  Are they kids?  It all matters.  Do not underestimate the importance of this.  
  2. Colors – Again, look at your audience.  Get a book such as Pantone’s Guide for Communicating with Color or find some other resources for how color affects the psychology of people who see your designs.  Ever wonder why banks almost always have the color blue in their logos? It’s because blue is associated with water and the sky which are considered constant and dependable.
  3. Buttons – we like simple buttons for custom e-learning apps – Exit, Help, Continue, Go Back.  Keep it simple.  Don’t overthink things and make sure the user can navigate effectively.  For online courses, don’t overcomplicate your LMS – keep things simple and concentrate on the content you provide – be a facilitator, not a complicator.
  4. Content – keep the content engaging and on the screen.  If you just provide PDF files or PPT files for learners to download and post to a discussion, it’s OK but aren’t there better ways of engaging your learners?
  5. Multimedia – Just because “you can” doesn’t mean you should.  Drag and Drop interactions and multimedia interactions look cool, but often times are unnecessary.  If there is a particular concept that is difficult to teach through the written word or a lecture, consider developing a multimedia interaction that helps to illustrate the concept.  We’ve seen time and time again where e-learning developers spend too much time on multimedia and forget about the entire instructional design.  Work on your instructional design first, then build it out.
  6. Get a wire diagramming tool to help you develop, test, and get approval of your design prior to development.
  7. Develop your e-learning and get approval along the way.  Nothing hurts more than building out the entire e-learning and then showing it off only to find that you have to redo the interface because the buttons are confusing to the target audience test group.

Following this simple advice will help you develop some pretty good training.  Simplicity is always best, focus on content and facilitation.


WordPress LMS

WordPress LMS is releasing a WordPress LMS known as Sensei in January 2013 and if it is anything like the simplicity of their WordPress Shopping Cart Woocommerce, it will be a winner.

If I were a betting man (which I am!), I’d put my chips on the table for this one.  The developers at know their stuff when it comes to simplifying.  I’ve seen it first hand when they took the complexity of e-commerce shopping carts (which if you used Magento you would know what I mean) and simplified it into an intuitive interface that integrates with the most widely used content management system and blogging platform- WordPress.


Learning Management System

So what to expect?

  • Easy installation (as easy as installing WordPress and a theme)
  • Minimal server requirements (unless you plan on a big scale project)
  • Integration with Woocommerce (to take payments for online courses)
  • Deep integration with existing themes and compatibility with other WordPress themes.
  • Simple interface for adding courses, quizzes, discussions.
  • Social media integration and WordPress rich interfaces.
  • An open marketplace where developers can write LMS extensions for this platform.
  • Issues, fixes, and many updates.
  • Good usage for smaller scale projects (at least initially)

What not to expect out of the gate:

  • SCORM support (it’s been well documented that this will not be happening in the early versions of Sensei WordPress LMS)
  • Large scale compatibility (Don’t expect to convince your school or organization that it’s time to ditch your existing LMS for this.  It’s going to take time before the grease is on the wheels and the bugs are worked out so that scalability can be reliable).
  • Compatibility with ERP systems (Most LMS systems have some compatibility with ERP systems that allow their LMS’s to communicate to the organizations Human Resources systems or in the case of education- an Admissions/Records Office) This I think will come soon in the form of an extension.

It’s something to be excited about.  If you look at’s track record – it’s been good and solid.  When Woocommerce was opened up to the marketplace for developers to create extensions – it made Woocommerce that much more viable and it moved the product forward. The same I suspect will happen with the Sensei WordPress LMS.

Your comments? Thoughts?

Corporate Training – The Future

Corporate Training – The Future

It’s no secret that as technology grows – the world gets smaller.  China, with it’s booming economy has recognized that investment in talent and people goes much further to increase profits than doing nothing at all.

See the following article: Making a difference in corporate training

With companies like Microsoft spending at least $20 million a year to get some of their worldwide employees together twice a year for some training – you can expect a growing number of both e-learning companies and internal training departments to seize the moment.  In addition, with energy costs rising as they have been and mobile devices becoming increasingly relevant – it will be an obvious choice for corporations looking to both maintain and recruit top talent.

We expect a huge demand for mobile learning and e-learning to continue as travel costs and communication channels increase.  Talent can be recruited and professional development can be delivered through innovation and we think corporations and business will drive the future of mobile learning markets – allowing higher education to follow suit.

Competency-Based Training: What Do you Already Know?

Competency-Based Training: What Do you Already Know?

Competency-based training models allow learners to demonstrate what they know and move on if they already know the material.  I’m sure you’ve sat in a class before thinking to yourself “I know this stuff already!” Many organizations allow you to test out of certain courses but, in most cases you have to take the whole course even if you know it.  So the idea of competency-based training models is viable – and even more-so in the current educational and training landscape.

How Competency-based Training Models Work

The short answer is, it depends.  I say this because some subjects lend themselves better to competency-based testing than others.  Of course there are some politics involved as well such as standards, articulation to colleges or certifications, butts in seats, and of course money.  Generally, though there is no subject matter that someone could not “test out” of if the test is developed correctly.  This is easier said than done.  We’ll look at some of the obvious coursework that lends itself to competency-based testing.

  • Programming (computer science)
  • Micro-computer applications (MS Office)
  • Skills based (forklift operations, overhead crane operation)
  • Electro-Mechanical (knowledge of electrical systems, mechanical operations, hydraulics)
  • etc.

You should get the idea from the list above.  The student who can demonstrate they already know the material can test out and move on without taking the class.  They are also performance based subjects and it is very easy to distinguish if the student does not know the material.  You simply give them a task to complete, a scenario, or a project and perhaps a written test to demonstrate competency.

The Test

The test has to be based on the main objectives or the certification standards that the course is trying to achieve.  In the actual classroom, the instructor should be basing everything they do on their goals and objectives of the course.  So for competency-based models, the test could be the same test that is given in the classroom.  If the student passes that test, they are demonstrating they know the material and should not need to go through the entire classroom course. If the test is not designed correctly, it renders the competency-based model unreliable.  This is why test design is crucial to “testing out.”


For companies, it reduces training costs if they hired a skilled worker who says they already know the material, and that company could validate the fact that they do.  In terms of workforce development for a college or vocational school, competency based training models get unemployed workers back into the workforce faster.




Should Online Teaching Really Be Called Online Facilitation?

Should Online Teaching Really Be Called Online Facilitation?

Online teaching should really be called online facilitation.

I’ve seen it time and time again; traditional classroom instructors are told they have to teach online. The problem is, many of them don’t know how. They are used to lecturing with a PowerPoint, going on field trips, or doing a lab – they TEACH. But in online environments, “teaching” is not as necessary. Some may argue this, but the fact remains that a clear majority of online courses out there are facilitated courses. Some may site some great innovators who do live lecture sessions, recorded lessons, and more; but the beauty of online learning is that it puts the student in the driver seat and the teacher in the navigational passenger seat.

So I ran across a great article today regarding online  facilitation, and I thought it to be pretty simple and accurate tips for online educators.

22 Secrets from the Most Successful Online Educators