Badges, badges everywhere but not a drop to drink

One of the potentially exciting improvements in SharePoint 2013 is badges. These allow you to assign reputation to users of community sites – but how do they stack up?

Badges are a “gamification” concept; you define achievement steps and give the learner a badge as a reward for reaching each step, or you give a badge to recognize achievement.  Potentially they could be a great boon in SharePoint for learning – by giving accreditation and recognition to learners. [See a slideshow by Justin Mori at SharePoint Saturday Belgium for some rationale on gamification.]

Like many, I’m still getting to grips with the strengths and weaknesses of SharePoint 2013. It’s definitely easier to use, but I’m disappointed that some features have been removed. For instance in SharePoint 2010, you can create Status Lists as dashboards – red for problems, amber for warning and green for okay – but these are dropped without a lot of explanation in SharePoint 2013.

If you’re using Office 365, migration to 2013 is great – Microsoft do it for you. But if you’re on premise, there’s more work than it should be – for instance if you have “best bets” defined in search in SharePoint 2010, they seem to need to be manually re-created as “promoted results” in SharePoint 2013.

But back to badges – how good are they in SharePoint 2013?

What badges can do

Badges are a capability of community sites.

There are two kinds of reputation that people can earn in these sites. The first is achievement points, as shown in the example below, whereby community members can get points for activities, for instance creating or replying to a post.

Specify the point values in SharePoint 2013

And the second is badges, where the community moderator can create text badges and assign them to people manually. These are defined in a SharePoint list – for example in the screenshot below, I’ve made 3 badges – Expert, Professional and Moderator.

SharePoint badges 

You can then assign a badge to a community member, for example I’ve assigned myself the Moderator badge in the illustration below.

What a badge looks like

For a good perspective after practical use, see an excellent article by Susan Hanley on Why We Are Disabling Reputation Settings in SharePoint 2013 Discussions Lists. Her view is that the reputation points system is too basic, for example a “best reply” is not too meaningful in knowledge sharing, but she mentions using badges usefully in one project.

Badge limitations

Badges seem to have a number of significant limitations:

  • Badges are text only – you can’t make graphical badges out of the box. (Though see this blog article for how to do so with some coding.)
  • There is potential confusion as to whether badges need SharePoint Enterprise – Microsoft suggest here they are only supported in Enterprise, but I believe they work in standard SharePoint. It would be helpful for Microsoft to confirm this will always be the case. 
  • A person can only have one badge. Giving a second badge takes away the first one.  This seems a pretty fundamental weakness – and makes badges very one dimensional. If you have two or more things to reward people on, you can’t do it. Or if you want to give badges for specific achievements, it only works for the first achievement people do.
  • You’d expect that community site badges would be visible in personal profiles within SharePoint.  So you could see centrally people’s achievements. Unfortunately this doesn’t seem to be the case – at least in Office 365, having a badge doesn’t show up in your profile.
  • Documentation from Microsoft on badges and how to extend them is very sparse. Although there is one interesting article here: How to Allow Only Users Who Have a Community Badge to Your SharePoint 2013 Site.

I hope I’m wrong on these limitations – if anyone knows better, please comment on the blog or email me and I’ll update.

Summary

My title “Badges, badges everywhere but not a drop to drink” is a little mean. Within a single dimension, community site, badges look as though they could be valuable. And every great feature has to start off somewhere.

But compared to other systems – see for example how SAP use gamification and badges in the SCN community network – SharePoint badges are very basic. For badges to truly be part of a great SharePoint based learning system, they’d have to do a lot more.

Microsoft have shown in the past that they can listen to feedback and make weak software into great software, and I hope future updates to SharePoint give us a lot more.

Posted in Community, SharePoint 2013 | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Six keys to success for leveraging SharePoint in your Learning Infrastructure

Bill Finegan, Vice President Enterprise Technology Solutions at GP StrategiesI attended an excellent session by Bill Finegan of GP Strategies at the Questionmark user conference last week. GP Strategies is a quoted company in the performance management, training/learning and consultancy space and one of their specialisms is deploying SharePoint for informal, social and workplace learning. Here is a summary of what Bill suggests are the six keys to success for leveraging SharePoint within a corporate learning environment.

The keys for success are:

1. Define a vision

You are using SharePoint because you have a business need to solve, a business problem that you want the learning to solve. Start from the business need – identify the needs and prioritize them. Don’t start from any feature of SharePoint or any technical baseline – work out the vision and business value and start from there.

A vision document should also include a map of how learners receive and share information, an overview of your IT environment and how SharePoint fits in and where your strategy aligns with technology. It should also include a simple ROI (Return on investment) model. Review with focus groups to ensure that the vision meets user and business needs.

2. Design an engaging user experience

Your use will likely succeed or fail due to the quality of the user experience. If it’s an engaging user interface, there is much more chance of widespread use.

When planning the site, don’t think about the administration or the authoring first, think about the end user first. The success of your use is all about the end user experience. Survey, plan, whiteboard and prototype to make sure the user experience is good,

3. Leverage SharePoint’s features

Concentrate on “out of box” features first, before writing code. For example most sites will benefit from discussion forums.

Use SharePoint to enable task orientated and in-context collaboration, personalized aggregation points, business intelligence gathering and analysis, enterprise searches and enterprise-wide content management.

4. Manage your information architecture

Identify what type of information will be stored and work out how to tag / organize it so can be shared. Effective SharePoint use relies on content being structured, labelled and categorized so that different audiences can navigate and search for information.

5. Measure success

Bill suggests that you should avoid “experimental” tool syndrome. The system should be a production one and aim to produce business value and you should measure this from the beginning.

You should set benchmarks before you begin and measure yourself against them – it’s useful to measure both quantitative items and qualitative items. Some useful quantitative items can be usage, levels of collaboration and the number of searches. Some useful qualitative items can be to run a survey and collate user comments and to look for things people search for that are not found.

You should ensure you measure both learning/training value and business impact.

6.Implement a governance program

Define roles, responsibilities and processes so an enterprise can guide development and use of the solution. Think about this prior to rollout – setting up a governance panel with quarterly meetings works well in many organizations.

 

I thought these were valuable and worth sharing, thank you Bill for giving permission to do so. For more on what GP Strategies offer in SharePoint, see http://sharepoint.gpstrategies.com/.

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Will learning in SharePoint benefit from the Experience API?

Although many corporations and colleges, universities and schools use SharePoint for training and education, take-off for SharePoint in learning is still patchy. SharePoint 2013 looks like it will have some education capabilities, but Microsoft are keeping very quiet about them; for some analysis of the client object model in April here or see a November blog from Mike Smith here).

But I wonder if a new e-learning standard called the Experience API might have more impact in getting SharePoint used for learning, particularly in corporate training?

Who is behind the Experience API

Experience API logoThe Experience API is a new standard based on activity streams, under development by the US government funded ADL. This is the organization that introduced SCORM, a widely used e-learning interface standard

Almost all learning software supports SCORM largely because at one point the US Department of Defence said they would not buy any software that didn’t support it! SharePoint support of SCORM is part of the SharePoint Learning Kit.

The ADL’s new standard, the Experience API (previously called the Tin Can API) is getting a lot of interest from learning users and vendors because it’s really simple yet supports a lot of really exciting use cases about capture of learning data.  Is also supported by the AICC, a very well-established learning technology standards organization, who are redirecting their work on a new CMI-5 standard to collaborate with ADL on the Experience API.

What does the Experience API do?

Learning happens everywhere, not just within formal learning events. What the Experience API lets you do is capture learning activities as they happen, and store them in a Learning Record Store (LRS). Lots of different kinds of learning – simulations, games (serious and non-serious), social learning, mobile learning, quizzes, collaborative learning, viewing documents and almost anything can be recorded by the Experience API.

At the core of the Experience API is a simple sentence structure:

Actor, verb, object

or

I did this

For example “John Kleeman viewed this video” or “Peter Brown walked into the bank in the simulation” or “James Smith made a forum post in this discussion area”. Any learning activity can be easily configured to send back learning activity using a simple REST interface (based on the Activity Streams concept). And then one can collate the information and make predictions or inform or take actions as a result of it.

How might this help SharePoint?

Lots of learning happens in SharePoint. People view documents, they look at videos, they collaborate with others through forums or using SharePoint social features, they search, they might launch learning activities from SharePoint as a portal. But these SharePoint activities are not well or easily tracked. So although SharePoint is used for learning, the learning is not easy to identify or measure.

Experience API calls can be made easily in JavaScript and so are easy to slot seamlessly into SharePoint. And so anyone who is using SharePoint could easily track learning activities with the Experience API and have the information recorded and analyzed via a LRS (Learning Record Store).

You never know. This could be the invention that gives SharePoint traction as a genuine learning system.

Posted in Commentary, Community | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Seven SharePoint Assessment Slideshares

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a presentation shared on Slideshare must be worth quite a few blog articles! 

Here are seven Slideshare presentations that you may not have seen. All are relevant to the theme of SharePoint and Assessments.

1. Don’t let your training fall off a cliff

I love this presentation from John Lightfoot which talks about how SharePoint can be used to improve the benefits of training by keeping learners engaged and helping them on the job after training. See http://www.slideshare.net/exnav29/dont-let-your-training-fall-off-of-a-cliff or below:

 

2. SharePoint in Higher Education

This presentation by James Lappin dates back to 2009 but has some different thoughts on the use of SharePoint in Higher Education, much of it still relevant and some neat drawings.

http://www.slideshare.net/JamesLappin/sharepoint-in-higher-education

 

 

3. Decommissioning the University VLE: Using SharePoint to Engage with Students

This presentation delivered at the International SharePoint Conference in London earlier this year is by David Coleman (see my 2011 interview with him) and Alex Bradbeer, about a university moving from Blackboard to SharePoint.

See http://www.slideshare.net/davecoleman146/moving-from-blackboard or below:

 

 

4. Measuring social learning in SharePoint with Assessments

This is my presentation on using SharePoint to measure social learning with assessments at the European SharePoint Conference last year.  See http://www.slideshare.net/QuestionmarkSlides/measuring-social-learning-in-share-point-with-assessments or below:

 

5. Office 365 for education

There are lots of presentations on Office 365 on SlideShare, many of them marketing ones from Microsoft. This presentation from MVP Alex Pearce has some interesting screenshots and examples of use. See http://www.slideshare.net/pearce.alex/using-office-365-for-education or below:

 

6. 10 best SharePoint features you’ve never used but should

I met Christian Buckley at the European SharePoint Conference last year, and he’s both expert at SharePoint and good at speaking. This presentation describes 10 features of standard SharePoint that many of us are not familiar with. See http://www.slideshare.net/echo4sharepoint/10-best-sharepoint-features-youve-never-used-but-should or below:

 

 

7. Assess to Comply: how else can you be sure that employees understand?

Last but not I hope least, here is a presentation I gave earlier in October at the Ethics & Compliance Officer Association’s (ECOA) Annual Ethics & Compliance Conference in St Louis, Missouri. This may interest anyone involved in compliance issues within SharePoint or elsewhere, it’s titled: “Assess to comply: how else can you be sure that employees understand?”. See http://www.slideshare.net/QuestionmarkSlides/assess-to-comply-how-else-can-you-be-sure-that-employees-understand-ecoa-2012 or below:

 

I hope you enjoyed these presentations, and at least one gave you some new ideas or insight.

Posted in Commentary, SharePoint 2010, SharePoint in the Cloud | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Seven Summer SharePoint Stories

Here is my take on seven stories on SharePoint published over the summer.

1. I found CIO.com’s piece Office 365 Earns High Marks in Education, Struggles in Enterprise insightful, not so much for its mention of education as to the suggestion that it will actually be Office/SharePoint 2013 that will make organizations move to Office 365 – if you’ve got to upgrade, may as well upgrade into the Cloud.

2. Speaking of SharePoint 2013, of course this has gone to beta over the summer. Not as much new as some people hoped, but a new app store and lots of incremental improvements in UI, mobile support, social features and more. To quote Jennifer Mason in her article  SharePoint 2013: Not Quite What I Expected, it is a pleasant surprise, as she says:

“Some of the smallest changes in how things are presented or integration have made a huge impact in this release.”

3. What of new education features in SharePoint 2013? See my own earlier article SharePoint 15 will allow quizzes? for speculation. In July, Bjørn Furuknap’s SharePoint Corner shared some information on quizzes in SharePoint, but his article like mine is based on Microsoft’s developer documentation, and I’ve not yet seen any screenshots of quiz authoring in SharePoint 2013, maybe this will only be in a separate education module or it’s still being developed?

4. Could the ability to make apps for SharePoint be game-changing in Education? See this thought provoking blog post by Ray Fleming of Microsoft Australia : Building education applications for Office, Office 365 for education and SharePoint. To quote Ray:

“For education customers and partners, this is good news. Really good news. What it will mean is that customers will be able to add custom applications to their installations of Office or SharePoint easily, without having to do lots of fancy customisations themselves. And create a market for education apps for Office…”

5. It certainly does look as though more universities and colleges are seeing the wisdom of Office 365 and/or SharePoint. Microsoft proudly announced a few days ago for instance that Georgia State University Switches to Microsoft Office 365, Saves $1 Million in Operating Costs. Even over 5 years, this is a nice amount of money to save.  

6. In the world of compliance, some organizations use SharePoint to track reading of rules and regulations. Is this a good way of ensuring that people learn and understand rules? In an article in Compliance and Ethics Professional July/August, What’s the best way to document that training has taken place?, I argue that this is not ideal – better than nothing, but to really check understanding you have to test people not just track them.

7. Last but not least, if you’ve not caught it already, for a real story, read Dan Holme’s blog on how he used SharePoint to set up NBC’s Intranet at the London Olympics (part 1, part 2, part 3). The London Olympics were a great event, living in London I was fortunate to  get tickets to see Bolt win the 200m at the stadium (he was fast!), and it’s lovely to see that SharePoint was working to help behind the scenes.

Posted in Commentary, SharePoint in the Cloud | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Can you set up SharePoint Office 365 for Education in 15 minutes?

Microsoft announced Office 365 for Education this week, and I decided to find out how easy it was to get started with Office 365 for Education. (See my earlier review SharePoint in Office 365- the Good, the Bad, the Brilliant and the Ugly for more on Office 365 SharePoint in general.)

Starting the trial is very easy. I went to my computer about 16.20pm and filled in a simple form signing up for the UK version of Microsoft’s A3 education plan. You don’t need a credit card and you don’t need to prove educational status to start the trial (though you need this to use it for real).

The account gets set up within a few seconds, but SharePoint needs a few minutes to be provisioned:

.office 365 start 

But by 16.28 I’m into the SharePoint administrator system and it’s set up 3 site collections for me

office 365 site collections

And with a bit of exploring I found by 16:35 the team site which looks very familiar to other new SharePoint sites as you can see below. I used the domain name sharepointlearn for my trial, and so my SharePoint site is called sharepointlearn.sharepoint.com and my admin area is called sharepointlearn-admin.sharepoint.com.

office 365 team site

From then on, it’s just a question of using SharePoint, not all the features of On Premise SharePoint are present in Office 365 for Education, but most of them are. And it’s all set up for me in no more than 15 minutes. You can probably do it in 10 minutes if you weren’t taking screenshots while doing it …

It looks as though SharePoint within Office 365 for Education is similar to that in other editions of Office 365. See my earlier articles for some technical how-tos for including assessments within SharePoint in Office 365:

Compared to the huge effort to install, maintain, set up search, set up load balancing and manage SharePoint on premise, Office 365 for Education looks very interesting. And that’s just for SharePoint – of course you also get Lync, Exchange and Microsoft Office as well.

There are things you can do on premise that you can’t do in Office 365 (e.g. make a fully functional SharePoint public website), but the ease of setup and management makes SharePoint if Office 365 look very interesting for Education.

Posted in SharePoint in the Cloud | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Measuring Social Learning with Assessments at SharePoint Saturday Belgium

Bart Hendrickx recently talked at SharePoint Saturday Belgium on Measuring Social Learning with Assessments. I’m pleased to share his slides courtesy of SlideShare and BIWUG (Belux Information Workers Group).

 

If you have any difficulty viewing the embedded slide show, click here to see it full screen.

Presentation decks shared on SlideShare seem a great way of learning, here are some other good, recent slide shows:

Enjoy!

Posted in Community | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

SharePoint 15 will allow quizzes?

It looks likely that the next version of SharePoint will allow you to make simple quizzes inside SharePoint, just like you can currently make surveys.

It’s widely rumoured that SharePoint 15 (currently under wraps but expected out early in 2013) will have an education module – an addition to SharePoint that will allow courses, lessons, assignments and grades. It will support IMS Common Cartridge format, which will allow SharePoint users to import courses published for Blackboard and Moodle. See  zdnet or Bjørn Furuknap’s blog for more on the SharePoint 15 education module.

MS-QUIZCSOMOf particular interest for this blog is that it looks as though SharePoint 15 (or its add-on education module) will allow creation of quizzes inside SharePoint. The evidence for this is contained within an “Education Quiz Client-Side Object Model Protocol Specification” (MS-QUIZCSOM), downloadable here. It’s a 73 page technical document describing the draft API to the quiz module. Reading the specification:

  • SharePoint will have a new concept of a quiz – an assessment tool used to determine users’ knowledge of course material.
  • A quiz can be assigned either for unlimited attempts or for 1-5 attempts.
  • Quizzes contain questions, that can be computer graded or manually graded.
  • Supported question types are fill-in-blanks, multiple choice, essay and rating scale.
  • Multiple choice questions can include true/false and multiple response questions
  • Feedback can be given for correct and incorrect answers
  • There is a rudimentary concept of question difficulty (a number between 1 and 5)
  • There is no concept of “topic” to group questions in and give feedback in
  • There also is no concept of shuffling choices nor randomizing questions from an item bank.
  • There is no mention of any support of assessment standards – for example no support of IMS QTI.

The capabilities and question types are quite limited, but it will be useful for basic quizzes. It’s not clear if the feature will be available as part of standard SharePoint or in some chargeable add-on.

What does this mean?

Microsoft may change some of these features before release, but it does look as though learning scenarios will be addressed seriously for the first time by Microsoft in SharePoint 15, replacing the existing quasi-supported Learning Kit. It seems this will be aimed more at schools, colleges and universities than corporate training.

I see this as good news for all in education and training who are interested in using SharePoint. The basic out-of-the-box capabilities look limited, but capable enough to be useful for simple use cases. And it will encourage the community to think of SharePoint as a learning system – using both the Microsoft built-capabilities and third-party systems.

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How Microsoft themselves use SharePoint to help 45,000 employees learn better

Thought leader interview with Jim Federico of Microsoft on how Microsoft use SharePoint internally for learning. Jim is a Sr. Director of Operations and Platforms at Microsoft, responsible for training and readiness for the customer facing roles at Microsoft.

portrait of jim federicoJim, what is your background?

I spent 13 years running technology and product strategy for SumTotal Systems. I started in learning technology developing and then managing a product called Ingenium (Jim and I first met back then) at a company called Meliora Systems. We sold that company to Asymetrix. We took that company public in 1998 and rebranded it as Click2learn. This company eventually became SumTotal Systems after a merger with Docent. The products I managed and helped design still live within Sum Total Systems’ current suite. After a 12 month stint at a start-up where we built an analytics solution for large strategic consulting organizations, I joined Microsoft 5 years ago.

What is your role at Microsoft?

I am Senior Director of Operations and Platform for what we call the Readiness Organization in Microsoft.

I am responsible for a variety of things including reporting, quality, tools & platform, technology, innovation and the operational services necessary to deliver nearly 2 million hours of training per year to 45,000 employees. This includes product and solution readiness which contains technical, licensing, industry knowledge, compete, and go-to-market readiness as well as professional skills training that we primarily deliver within a curricula framework we call Academies.

How does Microsoft use SharePoint for learning?

We’ve got a notion at Microsoft of “first and best”, which essentially says that it’s our job to use (and occasionally misuse!) products ahead of customers and better than any customers. This makes two things happen. One is we can take what we’ve learned and share it with our customers. The second is we make our products better by finding any problems – often before products are released to market. For example, the Windows 8 Consumer Preview was released recently and the very next day a substantial portion of Microsoft employees were already running the beta.

I believe we’re the world’s largest SharePoint implementation. From a training perspective, we use SharePoint in a few interesting ways.

We’re just wrapping up a project to build a SharePoint search experience for training. The outcome is that Training becomes discoverable from across the intranet. This is a really simple thing to do and I encourage all customers running SharePoint to consider doing the same.

microsoft sharepoint searchThe screen shot to the right is of our SharePoint search experience. Notice the facets to the left that allow for quick filtering of the catalog by taxonomies that are meaningful to people looking for training.

One benefit of this approach is that we are able to provide employees with a single training discovery experience even though we have two primary learning management systems in service of employees. With the SharePoint search scope, we have both LMSs being indexed in the same way, we have a common taxonomy that makes up the filters that learners search, and so we’ve unified searching across multiple LMSs, and we’ve brought training to where the people are, which is often better than forcing them to go directly into the LMSs.

I suspect that could be a quick win for a lot of people, as that’s the sort of thing SharePoint is good at – searching in external systems.

Yes, the investment involved is really very small, from a technical perspective. You can do this with a variety of techniques, the one we used was very simple – we wrote a query to write out a single file that ends up becoming a SharePoint list. The list gets indexed by SharePoint once or twice a day. And SharePoint knows how to index SharePoint lists, so there’s nothing complicated about it.

You can do this in more sophisticated ways, but this technique works fine.

Lots of people I speak to want to use SharePoint for knowledge management and aggregating and making information easy to find. I suspect a lot of people don’t realize how easy it is to index external systems like this with SharePoint search?

Yes, we’ve taken the LMS out of the ‘walled garden’ as it were, and made learning a proper ‘intranet citizen’.

What else do you do with SharePoint for learning?

microsoft Academy screenshotThe cleverest thing we’ve done with SharePoint is a site we call internally “Academy”, you can think of this as YouTube for the enterprise. We’ve done some white papers on this in the past (see for example here). It’s a podcasting platform, an executive communication platform, a training platform, a social networking platform, an expert-finder platform, it does all of those things for us. (See the screenshot right.)

It really leverages some of SharePoint’s unique strengths. We’ve put a podcasting experience in front of SharePoint that resembles YouTube with little squares that show a snippet of the video, star ratings, the name of the author, how many times it’s been downloaded and played. Content is accessible via a browser, via an RSS reader, can be easily downloaded to Windows Phone via the Zune software and we’ve recently released a Windows Phone app. In fact 30% of the content is being consumed from mobile devices – people browse the content on their Windows mobile phone and play it there.

I think that you let SharePoint users see the learning available to them and take it in a SharePoint web part?

Yes, we created what we call landing pages for learners in SharePoint. We built these in Silverlight because we wanted it to be cinematic, with animation, and it’s really easy to host Silverlight in SharePoint. It pulls content and the content structure and completion status from the LMS and marries that with the profile of the user who’s logged into SharePoint. Thus, if you or I looked at one of these landing pages, what we’d see would be different depending on our profile. You might require different training than I do, and we might recommend different training depending on job roles and geography. It takes the profile from SharePoint and presents a unique view. When the user wants to engage in the course, they click through and end up watching the content player from the LMS, or can also download and take it offline.

We’re in the process of improving this by building a Windows 8 app, with a Metro design, a touch-first app, that is on top of SharePoint. It will be available as an internal-only application for Microsoft employees and will become the primary way that Microsoft employees consume training. We’re also in the process of re-building our content player, using HTML5, making it suitable for touch mobile devices. One of the things we’re keen on in Microsoft is making an immersive experience, for instance you click on a course and it plays in the window you are in. The trend in Windows 8 is that controls are hidden unless you need them, the chrome of the experience fades away, with the content in the forefront. We’re also designing our user interface for touch and figuring smart ways of integrating this with SharePoint and our LMS.

Are you running the new version of SharePoint under development (version 15) internally or do you use SharePoint 2010 internally?

Microsoft is running SharePoint 2010. There are areas that are working with SharePoint 15, but it hasn’t been rolled out across the company. In the training organization, we’re experimented with it and we’re building our strategies around how to leverage some of the new capabilities in the context of training. I suspect that within 18 months, most of the platforms I’m responsible for will be running in the Cloud and will leverage Azure and Office 15.

Another thing we’ve built internally is something we call OfficeTalk. This is a custom application that is essentially Twitter for the enterprise. It has the notion of hashtags, which allows you to keep track of conversations. There’s a web part that allows you to integrate it with SharePoint sites. It’s getting quite a lot of traffic. There’s also a Windows Phone app if you’re not in front of your PC. (You can see some more info on OfficeTalk in this article.)

A lot of the SharePoint sites we’ve built have a little OfficeTalk web part off to the side; that has a semi-synchronous conversation happening, in the context of the page you’re looking at. For example, if I’m looking at a SharePoint site about Windows 8, there will be an internal conversation running off to the right of the page, of people dialoguing about Windows 8. We think that’s pretty clever, and I’d expect similar capability to make its way into future Microsoft products. As you might expect, we prefer that some conversations happen within the Microsoft Firewall so it’s important that we provide employees with a proper – meaning secure – means of collaborating.

I know there is a lot of interest (for example within the Masie Consortium) in this area. What guidance would you give other companies looking to get value for SharePoint for learning?

My guidance to my peers in the industry is to take the training to where the people are. Often what people have to do is to drop what they are doing as a knowledge worker and “take a sabbatical” to go to the learning management system. And it doesn’t dawn on most employees to go and do that. Most employees don’t fully differentiate mentally between what’s training and what’s not. Content and community get blurred in the mind of learner.

Our job is to unify it all, and unlock learning content in your LMS via APIs and expose it, for example, in SharePoint.

How do you deliver assessments with SharePoint?

We have three modes of assessments we can call from our LMS. The assessments are available from SharePoint, but are running within the LMS where the SCORM APIs ensure data is being tracked.

- Standalone assessments

- Assessment wrapped around online training

- Assessment wrapped round virtual/instructor led training

We have built our own tool that we use to develop online training and assessments. We did that partly as we had our own unique requirements and partly because we wanted to deliver in Silverlight. The unique requirements primarily enable a degree of adaptively sophistication that I don’t believe exists in standard eLearning development tools. We’re currently in the process of re-releasing the system to deliver HTML5 content. From an assessment standpoint, the tool is not as sophisticated as systems like Questionmark.

Do you see SharePoint in the long term as competing with learning management systems or more as a hybrid?

For the foreseeable future we’re going to have both a LMS and SharePoint. One of the strengths of an LMS is that it can help us administer the business rules around training, especially around instructor-led training. There’s an immense amount of business rules to administer. For example, we set up a class which has minimum and maximum capacity, we reserve certain seats for certain audiences, we have a cancellation policy, we have a charge-back policy, we like our approval workflows, we set up pre-requisites, etc. etc. etc. There are so many business rules that we leverage every day from our LMS that rebuilding it would require a significant R&D investment.

The way I think about it is that because our LMS provides a rich set of capabilities we need to run the business, it frees up my team to focus on delivering innovative experiences and creating new modalities.

Will there be learning improvements in future versions of SharePoint?

Anything my team learns from using SharePoint to train Microsoft employees, the SharePoint product team benefits from. I can’t say what’s in or out of particular versions, but I advocate for learning needs to the SharePoint product team and they are very aware of learning scenarios.

One more thing I’m passionate about is what we’re doing on Windows 8. I’ve attached a screen shot of a solution we call Role Guide. This is a touch-optimized Windows 8 Metro style app that presents tailored roadmaps to Microsoft employees based on their role, region, manager status, and many other attributes. It also provides a fantastic search experience (integrated with our LMS) and includes an ‘in-experience’ SCORM content player that looks great when playing our HTML 5 content. To my knowledge, we’re delivering a bunch of industry firsts in this solution.

microsoft role guide

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Cheating on tests less likely if you use SharePoint?

Do you deliver online tests to employees (for compliance, certification or training purposes) or to students in college or university courses? If so, might your test-takers be less likely to cheat if you deliver tests or exams embedded in SharePoint than in a standalone application? The answer  is possibly yes. Read on to find out more!

Fraud triangle - motivation, opportunity and rationalization

A key concept to explain this is the fraud triangle, originally invented by Donald Cressey, a famed criminologist. He suggested that for people to conduct fraud, which includes cheating at a test, they need Motivation, Opportunity and Rationalization.

  • Motivation. To cheat at a test, you need motivation, a reason to do it.  Typically this will be because the test is high stakes – if you fail, there will be penalties.
  • Opportunity. To cheat at a test, you also need opportunity. There are three main kinds of opportunity:
    1. Impersonation or identity fraud : where another person logs in and takes a test for the test-taker. For instance, a manager gets a secretary to take the test for him/her, or a student gets a cleverer class-mate to take the test.
    2. Content theft : where the questions (and/or answers) are stolen and given/sold to potential cheaters.
    3. Unauthorized aids : where the test-takers get unapproved help to answer the questions, for instance another person to help, or access to the Internet or materials they are not supposed to have.
  • Rationalization. Someone who cheats also needs to be able to rationalize to themselves that what they are doing is fair – for instance that they think the process is unfair or because everyone else is doing it or some other mental model. They need a rationale to convince themselves that what they are doing is okay to do.

So given this, why might taking a test from SharePoint make it less likely that people cheat?

The main reason is that in many organizations, you would not willingly give your SharePoint password to another person. This might give them access to private or financial information (e.g. bonus or salary). It might be a serious breach of your organization’s information security policy. Or it might allow them to take actions as you that could be embarrassing (send emails, fill in forms etc). So in many organizations, if you use SharePoint to authenticate test-takers, it might encourage someone to take the test themselves  and so prevent impersonation, which is one of the main Opportunities for cheating.

Use of SharePoint could also help a little with Rationalization, as it could be part of a fair testing programme, which will make people feel less keen to defraud it. SharePoint probably won’t help much with Motivation, nor with other Opportunities such as content theft or unauthorized aids. If you are interested in learning how to deal with these, as well as more on the fraud triangle, see Questionmark CEO Eric Shepherd’s excellent blog article Assessment Security and How To Reduce Fraud.

If your organization culture allows SharePoint password exchange, then using SharePoint probably won’t help exam security. But if your organization culture is such that people will not easily give their SharePoint password to someone else, then using SharePoint as an entry point to online tests and exams could reduce impersonation and so reduce cheating.

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