Docebo Shape : First impressions

Firstly, kudos to Docebo for giving everyone free trials of this new tool.

Secondly, kudos for a funny launch video:

What is “Shape”

Shape is the latest tool to offer AI auto conversion of content into learning content. This would appear to be going for the “do you really need an instructional designer for this” market. Obviously this is a debatable starting ground for a product, but so to is the starting point of “only instructional designers can create learning”, so hey ho. This seems to be entering some of the space of tools like Wildfire and perhaps the quiz area – like Quillionz which I have used a bit in the past.

My experiment

I recently needed to build a new learning module on an overhauled document. This doc effectively amounts to a policy or practice document with some specific “do this” points related to expected behaviours.

Therefore, I thought I would see what Docebo’s new AI tool can do with the raw content of the policy doc in comparison to what I came up with (in Articulate Rise 360).

When you upload content it goes through the below steps (after you say if you want a small, medium or large project):

The extraction to production workflow

Of these steps, the only manual intervention is to give the Shape (yes, each project/presentation is itself a “Shape”) a title. The system does auto suggest three titles but you can create your own.

The output

What you get is effectively a short video, the tool picks out key text and overlays that automatically over selected stock images with a selected audio track (about 15 tracks included and you can upload your own).

This can be previewed in browser (all I have done so far) or published elsewhere.

Concerns

One concern that should probably be held is what happens to the data, how much the AI is improving through saving anything that may be your copyright, etc.

There are some predictable issues with the AI – for example, use of “interest” in the context of ‘an interest in something’ leads to a background graphic around interest rates. A lot of the images are also stock image rubbish but that was probably predictable.

The stock images that are used as backgrounds vary in quality which is a little odd as you would have thought they would all be of similar size to avoid scaling issues, etc. I certainly saw one or two that looked pixelated.

Some of the background choices were not great for contrast and being able to see the text.

The music was very ‘meh’.

I found the default speed a little fast for reading but it does at least force a little concentration 😉

Overall, the model is questionable given the distraction of the transitions and images in relation to cognitive load and redundancy.

The good

The output looks mostly professional and is in line with modern short adverts, for example this kind of thing could easily be done in Shape (note images are included although you have to upload your own videos if you want to use them – at least in the free trial version):

You can edit the Shape to change colours, images, etc to deal with some of the issues I raise under concerns about contrast (although still probably not great for accessibility?).

Perhaps most importantly, the AI does a pretty good job of spotting the key elements from the source material although there was some weird stuff toward the end.

The “medium” solution I requested came back as just over 3 minutes which suggests this is going for decent “short and punchy” rather than trying to be too clever.

Overall

Is it worth it? Well, for basic advertisements this seems great, it would be an easy way to create content for campaigns but I’m not sure if micro learning itself in this format is hugely helpful. That said, if we compare this with what was possible a few years back then the ease with which we can now create content is hugely impressive.

Docebo have a track record of improving their products and I know they have some really good people on their team so hopefully Shape can become a useful tool to Docebo’s LXP customers and beyond.

To time or not to time

Expected duration. Time on task. Lock stepped vs open. Start and end dates. Peer pressure motivation. Collaborative vs independent.

All of the above are all too well known for online learning developers. Does your design measure progress? Is it via time on task, do you lock access based on progress, do you enforce weekly or other spacing, use pre and post testing to adapt the experience or some other method? These issues are often tied to if you are allowing people to access content versus undertaking more collaborative activities.

This week I have had chance to pick up a few “courses” (well resources really in some cases) and this has got me thinking again about the temporal aspect of online learning. For example, is there value in Coursera basically unenrolling you from their courses to fit in their schedule, with the option to reenrol on the next session. This is partly as there are discussion activities but, in reality, the timing adds nothing to the learning experience for those wanting to pass through the course at their own pace.

Google, for example, advertise that they have opportunities via Coursera yet the company known for “organiz[ing] the world’s information and mak[ing] it universally accessible and useful” lock these “job-training solutions” to their/Coursera’s timelines rather than those of the interested party.

This expectation of working through at someone else’s pace is poor instructional practice when, in reality, many such courses are combinations of async activities such as videos, reflections, quizzes, etc. The defence for the model is probably facilitator support (i.e. being able to have someone online to help with questions). However, this seems contradictory to the idea of flat rate charging ($39 a month* as in the below image) without the traditional Coursera “audit” (i.e. FREE) access option. If the intention is to increase completion rates through forcing a time-based fear/scarcity mode of motivation this similarly is poor given there is not the personal support you would have in, say, a traditional university course to give you a hand and nudge you along to the final deadline.

Ultimately it feels that if this is the model then these courses need to be designed to allow any time joining with, say, monthly cohorts for discussion boards. Indeed we were designing similarly to this for rolling start degrees back in c.2010.

Ultimately it feels like MOOCs continue to fail at their stated objectives time and time again.

* also Google obviously have enough money to support skills development without charging for such items as CSR activity.

Some reflections on week one of the #LTDX21 event (with a bit on the latest The Learning Hack podcast)

Learning Technologies, of course, is normally a big, physical, conference and exhibition and I had hoped to attend this year (amazingly I don’t think I have been since 2016 – where did that time go?). However, with travel and event restrictions there has been the inevitable move to a “digital experience” this year. The free sessions I have attended for this year’s LTDX21 have really reminded me about three things from Learning Tech as an event:

(1) The “free” sessions, normally on the exhibition floor of the physical event, vary enormously and it is a lot better to attend the “paid for” conference event if you can.

(2) The major benefit of the event, for me, is bumping into people you normally see once a year (or less) for a quick catch-up.

(3) There is value in just browsing the exhibition for trends, new entrants, etc. – I am yet to attend a virtual event which does this kind of thing well in getting the balance between viewing “exhibitor information” and having sales people harangue you via LinkedIn and email.

With regards to the first point above and specifically the sessions, the ones I have attended in the first three days have varied between the incredibly introductory and the very thought provoking. Kudos to Omniplex for the thought provoking session – one that really picked at the shared learning industry conscious over our role in organisations (and impact on wider society) with calls for improving practice. A good example of bringing emotion in – by highlighting real world examples (from big stories like Grenfell through to smaller scale examples).

One problem with the less interesting sessions was that product demos, which would normally be restricted to exhibition booths, and presentations (with a product focus) that normally appear in the “theatres” seem to have blurred together in this format. The answer here is probably to look beyond the titles and descriptions to try and second guess the nature of presentation – this isn’t really an issue if you commit a day or two to an event and can walk away from less interesting sessions. It is more annoying when you are blocking out calendar time for virtual events.

From the sessions I have attended, I could see some of the ongoing challenges for online learning – for example, discussions in session chat showed a drive towards wanting to display learning in Microsoft Teams (in part due to Viva?) but at the same time we had presentations around old concepts rebranded as new. I would really advocate everyone in the industry listen to the below podcast. A lot of people are still very blinkered to the companies they have experience in and I really don’t think people realise what is actually “new”. As Dr Chen points out, for example, doing more than SCORM is not new. There also seems to be a growing trend of huge content libraries and aggregators (perhaps because of LinkedIn Learning’s success) which I personally feel has a role but is just part of the puzzle. Anyway, listen to the pod if you haven’t the latest Learning Hack podcast was timely given all of this:

Regarding point 3. Attending only a few sessions you also miss the general feel. Today, I am going to try and follow the event’s hashtag more closely to try and pick up some of the more general trends. Thanks, as always, to all the tweeters out there on #LTDX21.

Viva la viva

I’m a bit slow on this but been catching up today with last week’s Microsoft Viva announcements. It seems I partly missed this as the posts, that I saw at least, had instead picked up more on Microsoft making a bold prediction that Black Mirror-esque creepiness is going to be mainstream employee experience in the future:

Anyway, away from that slightly odd video, here is a good introduction video to Viva:

Donald Taylor picked up on Josh Bersin’s good summary here:

Personally, my initial thought was – “oh, great, ANOTHER platform”. With a bit more digging, Viva is clearly a lot more interesting than I thought. MS are looking to put a layer over Teams, SharePoint, etc and surface (pardon the pun) to the user a more personalised work experience. Rather than building Teams out to do this, as I had previously presumed, we have a different model here. Huge potential for us to finally “put learning in the flow of work” and facilitate knowledge/information sharing in new ways. However, like with Teams, it will take organisational approaches to drive people to work in ways that make the data, information sharing, etc actually helpful.

No doubt there will be a considerable consultancy market here – especially considering the knots people seem to be able to get themselves into even with the existing stack of tools like the classic issue: “do I save this file in email, Teams, shared drive, Onedrive….?”.

It is particularly interesting that by charging extra for this, Microsoft are acknowledging this has considerable value add (or at least they think it does). This isn’t just another tweak to M365 based on new AI, an aquisition or other tech. This is something where they have pulled together different things into a clear new, priced, product.

For learning/HR pros this could be a major market shakeup – see the Bersin post for more on that. The partnerships with LMS/LXP companies, for example, threatens to create an API monopoly, i.e. there is a risk that traditional L&D vendors will only be able to sell to companies if they are in the Viva network. One suspects the monopoly and merger authorities on both sides of the Atlantic will be keeping an eye on this – as should all HR/L&D pros.