From 3D to 2D … that changes everything

Digital devices are two-dimensional. Small areas as well. A classroom is 3D. With a large area as well. Courses, when they go digital, have literally, physically, now shrunk. That changes everything. So how do we handle education in this new type of shrunken place a digital device represents? We find the answer on the app-market.

Among the best song-titles ever? However: not among the shortest ones: “I Scream, You Scream, We all Scream for Ice-Cream“.

An old saying in the PR-industry is that a 3-hour presentation cannot be turned into a 30-minute presentation as easily as possible. This is too big a difference for it to be enough to remove most of the transparencies we previously had, but otherwise continue as before.

How different would it not be if we then were forced to do a 3 hour long presentation, but in only 3 minutes?

The only way to succeed with such a radical change is to fundamentally rethink the material and plan the presentation in a completely new way.

Things we cared about in the past may not be important at all anymore.

Things that we may not have cared about at all before can instead become very important.

It is exactly the same when we transform physical education into a digital education.

At TED we get 15 minutes – neither 5, nor 50, minutes. Great TED-talk about education by Sugata Mitra.

An example of something that has now become important in the digital space is the course logo.

One might think that the logo is a small unimportant detail, because in the physical world we have probably more often cared about the course syllabus than just the course logo – if we even had one. But in a digital world, most things are pretty different.

A good example where we can already see how a digital logo plays an important role is among digital books, for example at Amazon.

In a physical bookstore we can walk around, walk between the different shelves, look at the back and the cover of books, zoom in on a book by taking it down from the shelf, turn it over, scroll a little in it, even smell it. Then we put it back. Or; we buy it.

The user-context is completely different in the digital space.

It changes everything.
This is what it looks like when we search for books on “Corporate Strategy” at Amazon. What can you see with a bit of a distance?

But on Amazon, we click around instead, also on a small screen, perhaps with the help of a smartphone. The bookstore is now replaced with a website called Amazon. The “walking around” has also been replaced and is now called “scrolling”, “keywords” and “search fields” instead.

The point is that books on Amazon are actually bought in a completely different way than how books are bought in a physical bookstore.

As a result the cover of the book has become more important than before, even changed character. Images of book covers are even called “thumbnails” in the digital world, not book covers.

The difference in context, from the user’s point of view, also explains why a book cover of today, actually the book’s thumbnail, on Amazon is now looking more and more like a poster than the old-fashioned paper-book covers did.

A thumbnail must be visible, even though it is small.

How else to get a digital user to click on the book and stray into it?
Nice physical book covers, but not necessarily that easy to see. Also a digital book cover. More like a poster.

Amazon, through its digital bookstore, has simply changed over time what a book should look like in order to sell well.

In the otherwise already digital world, the term “mobile first” has become an increasingly important term for all this, coined by Luke Wroblewski, currently a Product Director at Google. He uses the term to explain how to think when building a website today, now that more and more users are browsing on a smartphone and no longer sitting at a laptop.

Sure, he is mostly aiming at so-called UX-people, the ones responsible for the user experience in the digital space, but the mindset is highly applicable to digital education as well.

This development leads to increased demands for simplicity.

More “bang on” than before so to speak.

So, now it is about easier ways to get around, navigation. Shorter time to understand what you are expected to do than before. And fewer words.

Herein lies also the reason why a 7-minute pre-recorded video actually can accommodate as much content as a 45-minute presentation made in a physical room.

If we test a new app, we can see these difference ourselves. It is very much about deleting, prioritizing, information. On a smartphone, not very many words can fit anymore. Successful apps are tremendously good at this, they have to be.

Actually, and just becomes of this; the app-market is a tremendously advanced place to be. It is, for instance, seriously difficult to “pack a complete taxi-service” into a small app – read: Uber.

The demands on user-friendliness have simply risen enormously, precisely thanks to the smartphone.

Therefore; benchmark great apps.
Which of all these soft-jazz tunes would you choose?

Exactly the same thing has also happened in the music world, partly due to Spotify, where we click around in much the same way as we do on Amazon.

The only difference there is that; in the music world, the title of the melody seems to play a much bigger role than the photograph itself.

I guess this is because that the actual size of an image, that a melody has been given by Spotify on their site, is smaller than what the corresponding image is for a book on Amazon’s website.

Well, Amazon could have chosen to make it like Spotify. Or, Spotify could have chosen to make it like Amazon. In the old days, record covers was even an art in itself – here some legendary ones. But, this is the way these actors have chosen to do it, and that matters.

Then, of course, titles also play a big role in the digital space. Both on Amazon and Spotify, we search for titles, and therefore the keywords we provide a digital education with now also play a big role.

Keywords did not even exist in the old physical education world.

Something that was previously completely impossible to even think about, has now become important.
This is what it looks like if we search courses in the field of “Digital transformation” on Coursera. Which one would you choose?

Now, for a person who chooses to scroll between all the different alternatives to one and the same course on for instance a MOOC site, such a thing as a logo plays a bigger role than one might think. It can, if nothing else, be the difference between getting a thousand, or ten-thousand, people to sign up for a course.

In addition, one thing that also remains from the old world is important: the beginning is where the whole agenda is set.

The “entrance-point” for a course is where the expectations for the content are formed, and thus determine how big the dropout rate will be from the education a moment later.

Wrong expectations major dropouts. Right expectations, fewer dropouts.

It is not likely that especially many course participants read an entire course syllabus before jumping on a MOOC – already in the old days it was a challenge to make people read it. And since it is free to take a MOOC, at least in the beginning, we just click and try, based on the logo and title we find, and later decide if we want to finish the course or not. And then it can be good if “right” people have “right” expectations when they “just click” and enroll.

All this is actually in some sense not more different than the fact that we in the old days also took the physical room into account when planning for a course.

We might just have forgotten that we actually did.

So maybe think of digital courses in much the same way as if it had been a book on Amazon by today. Differently than before. In any case: we have to start planing digital courses in a completely different way than we planned physical education.

Digital courses do not only becomce “smaller” than off-line-course: they become different, just because they have shrunken.

Things that did not matter at all before, now matter. And things that used to play a big role may not play a role at all anymore.

We just need to rethink when heading for digital education.

Share perhaps this post with someone who currently intends to “digitalise” a course, but otherwise continue as before.

Digital education is really something completely different than just digitalising the old physical education.

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