Mobile Training Programs: Optimizing Educational Content for Mobile Learning

Is your association considering—or currently offering—mobile training programs? Follow these simple steps to optimize your existing educational content for mobile learning.

Why Consider Mobile Training and Learning Programs?

One of the top trends in training and education is the development of mobile training and learning programs to make learning more accessible. Mobile content is not only convenient for the learner, but it can also increase retention and productivity by delivering critical knowledge at the exact moment it’s needed. Also known as “just-in-time training,” organizations are recognizing the benefits of pairing in-depth learning with opportunities for real-time reinforcement and practical application. For this to truly be effective, however, content needs to be optimized so that it can be searched and delivered quickly on a mobile device. The practical applications for just-in-time learning are considerable. For example, think of the technician who is on-site to install or repair a specialized piece of new equipment. Although they were formally trained on the process months ago, the ability to access reinforcement material will help increase accuracy and productivity.  Simply by scanning a QR code on the equipment, or clicking a link to a searchable resource library, that technician can pull up the exact documentation they need to complete the task quickly and accurately.  Within the office environment, just-in-time training resources empower employees to make decisions and handle difficult situations with greater confidence. In a perfect world, this just-in-time content would be developed specifically for mobile training. Short instructional videos or easy-to-follow visual documents tend to be the most user-friendly in these situations. But developing all new content may not be practical for many organizations due to limited financial and personnel resources.  However, it is possible to use the content you already have for a mobile learning program if you take a few simple steps to ensure it can be delivered to the user quickly.

  1. Provide a centralized “home” for your mobile content

Members and employees need to be able to find relevant content easily. Provide cloud-based access to a centralized library where this content is stored, whether that’s within an existing LMS or an online resource library.  Whatever tool or system you choose, make sure the search functionality is powerful and dynamic enough to provide robust search results for the user.

  1. Modify document layout, if possible

While it may not be possible to completely re-create shorter, more visual content, look for opportunities to modify the layout of existing, multi-column documents to a single-column format where possible to reduce or eliminate the need for left-to-right scrolling. While vertical scrolling is common on mobile devices, horizontal scrolling is extremely disruptive to the user, increasing the time it takes to read a document while reducing overall comprehension.

  1. Minimize the file size

Mobile devices, although convenient, are limited when it comes to processing power. The last thing a user needs in a time-critical situation is to attempt to access a PDF file that takes minutes to open or download. If you are developing new content for mobile training and learning, create it with the intention to minimize file size. Limit the number of fonts and use lower resolution photos and graphics. If you are working with an existing document, there are several file optimization tools available in Adobe Acrobat®. The exact steps will depend upon which version of Acrobat you’re running, but some general guidelines include:

  • Use the Reduce File Size command or PDF Optimizer
  • Enable Fast Web View in the File > Preferences dialog box
  • Unembed unnecessary fonts
  • Downsample or compress images
  1. In longer documents, create bookmarks or hyperlinked table of contents

If your educational content takes the form of a longer textbook or training manual, it may be impractical to break it up into separate, shorter documents. But it is possible to make these documents easier to navigate by creating bookmarks in your PDF to create jump destinations that link to other documents or web pages.  If you are housing your educational content in an online resource library, each publication can be broken out into easy-to-navigate, hyperlinked sections and backed with contextual search capabilities so users don’t have to scroll through hundreds of pages to find the answers they need.

Mobile Training Can be Worth the Time it Takes to Optimize Educational Content for Your Learners

Providing quick, easy, and just-in-time access to learning and training materials is going to continue to be a key component of mobile training programs moving forward.  It not only increases retention and success for the learner, it also increases program value by providing practical application of education concepts when they are needed most. Eventually, educational content will need to be designed with this in mind. But if you don’t have the resources nor bandwidth to tackle this today, don’t let that stop you from testing some small pilot programs. It is possible to re-use existing content by taking a few, simple steps to optimize documents for mobile delivery.

Learn How One Association Takes Its Online Content Beyond the Conference

The International Wire and Cable Symposium (IWCS) understands how important technology and innovation are to its members, which is why the association has embraced digital options in addition to the traditional print offerings to deliver conference content to its attendees.

IWCS also realized that each digital format is a separate entity, and attendees use each to accomplish different things. An app isn’t simply a digital version of a printed program; it’s a different animal altogether, with its own purposes and strengths. Considering these points, IWCS wanted to make their conference materials available in a wide variety of formats.

IWCS offers content from its annual meeting in print, on a conference content website, on a USB, and through a mobile app. The association also uses an online abstract management system for collection and review.

The conference content website is a cornerstone IWCS’ digital strategy. As a result of taking its conference content online, IWCS accomplished these worthy goals.

Strengthened academic relationships
Members of the academic community must “publish or perish,” and a digital publishing platform makes it easier for professionals to gain exposure. Space is much less limited online than it is in a printed book of proceedings. Since IWCS added online conference materials to its content offerings, academic participation has skyrocketed.

Extended the lifecycle of the conferenceOnline content can be accessed by search engines, which increased IWCS’ online visibility. Not only could attendees easily find the content they needed, but others in the industry could find conference materials as well. Prospective members and attendees could access IWCS’ high-quality, well-vetted content, which could give them just the push they need to join the association or register for the conference.

Learn more about how IWCS took its content digital—read the case study! For more tips on using your online conference materials to meet your association’s goal, download our whitepaper Tap Into The Full Potential of Your Online Conference Materials

The Newest Must-Have for Online Conference Materials: Responsive Design

This spring, Google announced that mobile-friendliness would be considered in its ranking algorithm, beginning in April. As Ernie Smith noted in his excellent Associations Now article on the subject, responsive design—an approach to web design that makes a page appear appropriately on any device used to view it—would no longer qualify as a “nice-to-have.” Websites must be mobile-friendly, or pay the high price of points docked in Google’s ultimate popularity test.

Is your association’s website up to snuff? How about your online conference materials? All pages under your domain count. If you have hundreds of abstracts available online from your 2014 conference, using a provider whose sites are not mobile-friendly, each of those pages is a small ding in your association’s reputation in the eyes of Google. Ouch!

If you don’t offer online access to your conference materials, you don’t need to worry about the mobile-friendliness of your online abstracts. That’s the good news. The bad news? You won’t get the “gold stars” of all that content, in terms of search engine optimization (SEO) and the appreciation of members, who would be glad if materials were easy to find and access on the go.

Best case scenario: Your conference materials are online—indexed, searchable, and easy for users and for Google to find. Your provider recognizes the importance of responsive design for modern workers on the go and built your conference content website accordingly. Google gives you gold stars for mobile-friendliness, your members love having online access to materials, and your SEO is strong because your association’s valuable conference materials are part of its online presence.

Omnipress has been helping associations put their content online for years, all with responsive design. When you work with us to provide your online conference materials, your site will please “the Google gods” and users.

For even better results and an easier conference content process, work with Omnipress for abstract management as well, and all other content outputs you may need—conference printing, USBs, apps, and more.

You can also work with us to build an online archive of your association publications with our digital publishing platform, which also uses responsive design. Google will love your association—and so will members!

Responsive Design 101: The Best Choice for Your Event Website

You probably visit dozens or even hundreds of websites a day. If you do all of your surfing on an office desktop, it doesn’t much matter how the sites look on mobile devices. But that’s not how the world works anymore. Office life is becoming less about location and more about availability.

When you’re on the go, reading websites on a smartphone or tablet, trying to make the site legible can be a challenge. The normal techniques—rotating the device or trying to pinch and zoom—will only get you so far. With all the advances being made in mobile technology, there has got to be a better way to deal with this. Right?

There is, in fact, an elegant solution to viewing websites on mobile devices, but making the change is left in the hands of the individual website providers. Responsive design is used to build sites that detect the user’s screen size and adjust the layout to fit the device.

If you view a responsive design website on a smartphone, for example, the menu might be hidden unless you touch the navigation (usually three parallel horizontal lines). The website’s text will look bigger on the phone and the design could be considered finger-appropriate.

View the same site on a 30-inch desktop monitor and the menus will remain across the top of the page, where you’d expect them to be, as mouse-appropriate navigation tools. Text will seem right-sized for the screen and the reading experience will be better for users.

Your event attendees struggle with these issues when reading your event website on mobile devices, too, which is why it’s important that you work with a provider that offers responsive design sites. Attendees will want to view this information at your event, and as you may have noticed, fewer of them are toting along laptops in recent years.

Responsive design is important before and after your event, too. People are moving at full-tilt to keep up with their busy lives, and they just might use the 10-minute breather in the doctor’s waiting room to visit your event website and decide whether the content is compelling enough to make the trip this year. If they have to fight hard to read the text, they may decide to return to it when at their desks the next day. Which they’ll probably forget to do. Then pre-registration will close and they’ll put off coming to your event until next year, and you’ve lost a registration.

After the event, reading through abstracts and handouts from sessions they attended, and those they didn’t, and these may also be skimmed on the go. It’s worth a little consideration to make sure that your event website presents itself well on mobile devices.

Responsive design won’t solve all of your problems, of course, but it can give potential attendees a better experience with your site, which means a positive feeling about your association, and that’s worth quite a lot.

Reach out to us if you’re looking for more from your event website. The Omnipress team is here to help!

Two More Reasons to Make Event Content Available Online: Branding & Integration

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Your brand is critical to your success as an organization. And because it’s so important, it needs to be right, on everything you touch: printed materials (publications, proceedings, directories, and more), association website, event website, mobile app, and training materials. The best way to ensure consistent branding is to partner with one company to produce your association content.

Our clients appreciate that Omnipress event websites are brandable. We can incorporate your association colors and logo—and/or your event colors and logo—so your event website feels like “home” to your members. That consistency builds your brand and fosters positive experiences that your members and potential attendees have with your organization.

In addition to a branded event website that fits your association and its image, Omnipress brings you integration to make your life easier. When your event website works with, not against, your association and conference websites, the experience is easier for attendees and association staff alike. Few things are more frustrating than having to complete a task multiple times. When systems work well together, that means less work for you.

Branding and integration make for a powerful, easy-to-manage event website. The valuable content your association brings to professionals every year deserves a special place to “live,” before, during, and after your event. That can be printed proceedings, which have a certain gravitas all their own, but for many, content that lives online is easier to use and reference at a moment’s notice.

Add in consistent branding and true integration with other websites and your content will remain an important resource for members and attendees while setting your association apart and making content management easier for association staff.

For more information on event websites as part of a complete content delivery strategy, read our whitepaper Event Content Planning: A Step-by-Step Guide to Simplifying Your Life.

Online Event Content: A New Conference Must-Have

These days, when someone looks for information, they go online. When a well-meaning salesperson tries to hand off a brochure or other printed piece, we have seen more people asking to be sent a link. Some still take a brochure, and a few may even read it, but for many others, doing research online is more efficient.

When you work with Omnipress to make your event content available online, potential attendees get a glimpse of the content before the conference. Seeing a preview might entice them to come. Finding valuable information about your event—not just a schedule and venue information, but content from actual planned sessions—couldn’t hurt, either.

During and after the event, online access to content is a valuable addition to printed proceedings. We have heard from our clients that tablets have become ubiquitous at recent meetings; just about every attendee carries a tablet, laptop, or smartphone, or even all three. Given the change in the tide that these digital appendages represent, it’s important for your association to remain relevant by making your event content accessible online. Attendees bring the devices along to better experience your event, not to spend time on Facebook. (Well … in addition to spending time on Facebook.)

When attendees and other professionals find event content online, they will see your association as a valuable resource in the industry. Going beyond simply having a registration site will show professionals in the field that your association “gets it,” realizing that the present and the future of content delivery is multi-faceted, including print, digital, and mobile resources. (Thanks to responsive design, Omnipress’ event websites appear appropriately on mobile devices.)

Capitalize on this opportunity to show your association for the innovative force that it is. Make event content available online to better serve your attendees, market your association, and extend the life of your conference.

Online and Under Control: Standards and Policy Books

It’s so nice to have everything in the right place, together and easy to find. That’s the idea behind policy books and standards. Rather than dig through past newsletters and emails to find the association’s take on this issue or that, just open the book and search.

As that book grows larger, though, and its contents cover more topics, this convenience becomes, well, inconvenient, especially if you need to leave the office with said tome. Is there an even better alternative to a printed standards or policy book?

Yes indeed. Keep the printed book on the office shelf. It will always be there when you need it, when you’re sitting at your desk. When you need an answer—right now!—or when you’re on the road or working from home, accessing the book online is a perfect alternative.

Besides the portability of an online policy book, it offers search tools that go beyond the table of contents and index you get in the printed version. With full-text and faceted search, Omnipress goes deeper.

Narrow your focus with faceted search: look under 2013 legislation, in May, regarding the production of widgets, in North Carolina. Found it!

Full-text search incorporates not just keywords, but all the text in a document. You don’t have to read anyone’s mind to find what you’re looking for. Refreshing, isn’t it?

Another advantage to publishing your standards or policy book online is search engine accessibility. You already know that the more content you have online, the more Google smiles upon you. Think again about how thick that printed book is. All that content, on your site, could do wonders for your SEO (search engine optimization). That’s a lot of potential you’re not (currently) taking full advantage of. It’s worth consideration.

There’s no need to worry that taking standards or policy books online means giving up revenue potential. Omnipress can do eCommerce. On the other hand, if your association is generous with its resources, we can handle that, too. It’s all up to you.

Having information exactly where you need it makes your day a little smoother, and it’s the same for your members. They want to know the association’s position on the issues and the standard procedures of the craft. The easier the resource is to use, the more they’ll refer to it.

Cover your bases by offering all of your content in print and online. After all, Omnipress does both! We can also provide content delivery for your events, in print, online, and through a mobile event app. A one-stop shop for association content distribution. Does it get any easier than that?

Digital Publishing Platforms | Conference Handouts Website or Online Archive?

Looking for a new, affordable way to put conference proceedings, speaker presentations or session handouts online for your next annual meeting?

Or maybe your association is looking for a way to create an entire eLibrary of scholarly publications and technical conference papers from the past 10, 20 or 30+ years?

Most associations are at some stage of creating an online content strategy. Some associations are just looking for a way to quickly place some handouts online, while others are looking for a way to put an entire library of association knowledge online for members and non-members alike to easily find and search.

2 Ways Associations Create Digital Publishing Platforms

Many associations are now using digital publishing platforms for their annual meeting materials and/or full library of educational publications.

Here are two ways you can use a digital publishing platform:

  1. Conference Handout Website: Some associations are using a simplified digital publishing platform to host their symposium materials. It’s a low-cost way to put session handouts, speaker presentations and conference proceedings online for an annual meeting. Websites are all branded, optimized for search engines and have full text and advanced search options so attendees can find the handouts they’re looking for quickly.
  2. Digital Library of Scholarly Content: A full-fledged digital publishing platform hosts and organizes years of conference proceedings and scholarly publications in one centralized hub (we’re talking thousands of documents). This eLibrary has all the benefits of the simple conference handout website, but offers more access management and more customized and advanced features to meet specific objectives.

It’s Not a Learning Management System

It’s important to remember that a digital publishing platform is not a Learning Management System (LMS). Digital publishing platforms (whether they are simple conference websites or full-blown archives of digital content) are discoverable by major search engines, host various types of content from journals to webinars and have advanced search options within the site.

Still confused? Check out more of the differences between a Digital Publishing Platform and LMS.

The Evolution of Conference Materials

Stop printing conference materials…no, wait. Maybe put them online and just offer stapled handouts. Here’s an idea: Record every breakout session and sell them to members after the meeting – Too risky!

Video didn’t kill radio. It complemented it. The web (and social web) haven’t killed print, but the format in which you provide attendees their educational materials (technical papers, abstracts, session handouts, etc.) has become more complex than ever. Go too far in one direction and you risk irritating older members and weakening your on-site education. Don’t evolve your association to the web and you look like a dinosaur.

Here’s how we’ve seen the educational materials (or learning tools) evolve since the 80s.

Are you keeping up with the Association-Jones’?

1980s | Print, Print, Print!

Conference materials were primarily in the form of a bound printed book or binder. Sometimes these were multi-volume technical papers or just long abstracts. The content was rich, but proceedings materials were bulky and inconsistently formatted.

1990s | Introducing Floppy Disks and CD-ROMs

Much like the 1980s, printed conference materials were still in heavy production with the growing popularity of three-ring conference binders. Except now, technology kicked in with 3.5 inch floppy disks and PDF files. Yes, even the digital versions were clunky, but they were still “digital.” They offered search capabilities across content, cost savings (especially for high page count, high quantity materials) and less bulk for attendees.

Scanning and OCRing technical papers were the primary ways to turn paper into digital. Using high-speed scanners and conversion software, search-ability was 95%. As we approached 2000, MS Office documents were becoming a major means of supplying content, and converting from Word to PDF was very common.

In the mid-1990s, conference CD-ROMs were introduced. Amen! With both print and digital delivery solutions, conference organizers were unsure of which to provide attendees, so for many years, attendees frequently received both. These digital offerings had a simple menu and a few options to navigate to technical papers. In addition, the powerful Adobe search provided users a fast way to find content.

2000s | Growing Online Popularity

In the late 1990s into 2005, conference CDs were the hot commodity. Some groups started putting all their technical papers and speaker presentations on CD-ROM, and only printed a program book for conferences. Some associations took to the CD for creating multi-year archives of conference materials dating back 5 to even 20 years.

Putting conference handouts online was a passion for meeting industry professionals, but the reality was resistant attendees and a lack of bandwidth and Wi-Fi connectivity at events.

In 2003, PowerPoint presentations began to erode the integrity of the written paper. Regarding educational meeting content, bullets and slides versus written-out paragraphs weakened the integrity of the conference giveaway. A slideshow without the talk wasn’t as valuable. The good news was authors were supplying digital files, and content had more color, depth and smaller file sizes, (sometimes) making it good for the faster web.

By 2006, large bound content was printed far less, and customized seminar and course content continued to be printed.

Around 2007, flash drives entered the market, competing against CD-ROMs. Even though they were more expensive, flash drives were “new and cool” and reusable to attendees, which added value and increased sponsorship opportunities. Regardless, everyone wanted to “go green,” and attendees began to see paperless conference themes with recycled paper and conference content on CD-ROMs and flash drives, with only a printed program or conference learning journal for note-taking.

2010-Present | Conference Handouts in Print, Digital and Online

Today, we’re still seeing a mix of content delivery, from print to digital to online. Associations have more of a grasp on a content strategy. The buzz of a green paperless meeting is turning into offering what makes the right sense at the right cost. Often, attendees will be offered content delivery choices upon registration. Some associations are leveraging social media websites like Twitter and LinkedIn or Online Event Communities for attendees to engage with each other and associations’ educational content.

More associations are now looking at different delivery methods in order to give conference attendees and members access to educational content anywhere, anytime and anyhow.

Online Conference Libraries, aka online archives of conference handouts and proceedings, are on the rise. Associations are quickly figuring out that putting their content in these centralized hubs allows their association to be discovered by search engines like Google in the abyss of the world wide web. The sites’ easy search tools allow users to find the exact conference materials they’re looking for, whether the annual conference was five years ago or two days ago. What’s more is associations can often charge for access to content or limit access to conference attendees or members.

But conference attendees don’t just want online access to conference handouts and proceedings. They want access on their iPads, Kindles and smartphones, as well. Trying to read PDF files is great on a desktop computer, but it doesn’t work so well on smaller reading devices like your iPhone. As a result, conference materials are starting to be produced in mobile-friendly eBook format. Converting conference content into ePub or Mobi doesn’t just make it easier for attendees to read your conference program—it allows them to change the font size, highlight and personalize it for their own unique reading experience.

Life just isn’t so simple anymore when the number of content delivery alternatives continues to increase.

This may not be your exact timeline, but it’s an aggregate. Where does your organization fit in? What’s going to be next?

New Affordable Way to Put Conference Materials Online

Looking for a way to make your conference proceedings, session handouts and speaker presentations for your annual meeting available at the click of a mouse?

Omnipress has just announced the launch of their new Online Knowledge Center Lite solution designed specifically to help associations manage and distribute their educational materials for their annual meetings and conferences.

Omnipress now offers two Digital Publishing Platforms. The more advanced
version, Knowledge Center Professional,
is designed for associations looking to create a
multi-year archive of educational content.

Read More

Differences Between Digital Publishing Platforms and Learning Management Systems

Previously, we observed that there are many names for Digital Publishing Platforms.

Some of these included:

  • eLibrary
  • Proceedings Central
  • Central Repositories
  • Resource Center
  • Digital Library
  • Body of Knowledge
  • Electronic Resource Library
  • Knowledge Library
  • Knowledge Center

One phrase that is not on the list above and one that is not a synonym for a Digital Publishing Platform: LMS, or Learning Management System.

Digital Publishing Platforms are NOT Learning Management Systems

Organizations like associations usually have a content strategy. An LMS and a Digital Publishing Platform are two different tactics.

Typically, an LMS contains training materials or a library of knowledge. If an organization issues continuing education credits, the LMS probably disseminates the education, administers a test, records a score and issues the credits.

Sometimes it’s not that complex. Some associations want to manage their content inside of a closed system for member benefit only, like with Sharepoint. With a system like Sharepoint, one can manage access to content and hold a large amount of content.

When I talk to people who use Sharepoint or an online LMS, they tell me what’s missing is the discoverability of their content via today’s smartest search engines. Unlike Superman, search engines cannot see through walls. The wall is your Association Management System (AMS) or access control—the control that’s hiding your content from the outside world.

Exposing Educational Content to Search Engines and Members

Digital Publishing Platforms house educational content online and help improve discoverability and searchability.

What does this mean? Your content’s footprint is larger, so it becomes more discoverable.

Here’s how it works:

Suppose one could expose the educational content of an organization to Google, Bing and Yahoo? If an association’s content is indexed by search engines, people who search for its industry’s issues, content and education will naturally find the association’s website, its PDFs, webinars, teleconferences, audio files, publications, proceedings, journals and other types of content it wants to leverage to attract visitors.

Learning Management Systems Can’t Replace Digital Publishing Platforms

Discoverability is only the beginning. Here are 4 more things a knowledge center can do that an LMS cannot:

  1. Help monetize content with the use of an integrated eCommerce platform.
  2. Enhanced searchability using metadata.
  3. Host multiple content types including journals, books, reference work, webinars and other scholarly content.
  4. Easily share content using integrated widgets linked to Facebook, Digg, LinkedIn or RSS feeds.

Check your content strategy. Are you serving only your members? How will you attract new ones?

What’s a Digital Publishing Platform to Your Association Content?

What do you call the website containing all your educational content – the technical papers, recordings, presentations, handouts, and publications? (This is no joke. There’s no punch line!)

Many associations simply refer to this as “putting conference materials online” or “online handouts.” Sure that’s what you’re doing, but what if you had a catchy, memorable name you could market and build your brand on?

What Associations Call “Putting Content Online”

  • eLibrary
  • Library of Knowledge
  • Knowledge Community – (For public facing communities)
  • Proceedings Central
  • Central Repository
  • Online Destination Site
  • Resource Center
  • Digital Library
  • Body of Knowledge
  • (Name of Org) Central
  • Electronic Resource Library
  • Knowledge Library

We call it a Digital Publishing Platform,or eLibrary (or Knowledge Center).

Tomato- tomahto, right?

Sharing your educational content to members and using it to attract new members can be the lifeblood of your association. That’s the most important part.

What’s your “digital publishing platform”?