February 08, 2010

Pass data to a Qualtrics survey and use it in the survey and reports

Qualtricsis a versatile and sophisticated online survey application now available here at U-M. My department is currently using Qualtrics to create a feedback form that will be accessed through several hundred learning modules. This survey form needs to recognize from which learning module it's being accessed and it should be able to determine the author of the module and email them a copy of the user's feedback. Qualtrics has a feature called "embedded data" which allows you to pass any arbitrary arguments in the link to the survey. We'll use this to add metadata to the feedback.

There are three steps:

  1. Set up a link to the survey that passes "Embedded Data" values
  2. Set up the survey to access the Embedded Data
  3. Do something with the Embedded Data

1. Set up a special link to the Qualtrics survey that passes Embedded Data values:

  1. We need to pass the values of three properties of the learning module:
    1. The current page URL
    2. the TITLE of the learning module
    3. and the author's EMAIL address.
    If in your application these values never change, the embedded data values can be hard-coded at the end of the survey link, but in this example, every learning module has different values for these items, so we'll use javascript to generate the link. You could just as easily use a server-side language, but that is not an option for this particular application.
    The title, and author properties were already exposed in variables in the code for the modules, and the URL property is always available as "document.location":


  2. Here's an example of a javascript function that will append the required values (derived from properties that already exist on the learning module page) to the end of a Qualtrics survey link.

  3. The printFeedbackLInk() function is called when the navbar for the module is built with Javascript:


  4. This shows the path generated by the javascript - URL, title and email are all appended to the survey link.The added parameters are URL, TITLE and EMAIL.


  5. 2. Set up the survey to access the Embedded Data

  6. Open and edit the survey in Qualtrics.

  7. Click Survey Flow.

  8. Click "Add Below" to add another step. Click Embedded Data. 

  9. Add the parameter names used in your survey link. 


  10. In this case I've added URL, TITLE, and EMAIL.


  11. 3. Do things with the Embedded Data

    We'll do three things with the embedded data: we'll trigger an email to be send to the module author, display the title of the learning module in the survey to the user, and we'll report on the title and page number the user was on when they clicked the survey link.

    Set up the email trigger to email the feedback to the author of the learning module. Click the Advanced Options dropdown.


  12. Select Email Triggers...


  13. Set up a rule to send an email to the author. I've added a check that the value of EMAIL looks like an email address. 

    To do this select: "If Embedded Data [EMAIL] is Matches Regex and paste in this regular expression:


    Note: additional, more sophisticated regex formulas for validating email addresses are available <a href="http://www.regular-expressions.info/email.html ">HERE</a>.

    Click Finish Editing and then Save Triggers.


  14. Make the title of the learning module show up in the survey itself.
    Create a Descriptive Block type question, with Rich Text format.

    Picture 24.jpg

  15. In the toolbar of the editing window, click the {a} icon. Select Embeded Data Field and type the name of the field you want to display within the block of text. In this case it is TITLE.


  16. Clicking Insert will drop some code into your question.


  17. Close the editing window to save the change.


    This is what the user will see 




    Reporting on the embedded data is simple. The values for the current module and page are displayed in the emailed feedback as well as in online reports. Here's a view of the question selectors in the Reporting window in Qualtrics. You can see the Embedded Data items have been added in the reporting area, so they can be used in conditional filters, in sorting, etc.

    Picture 26.jpg

Posted by emeiselm at 12:09 PM | Comments (0)

June 26, 2009

Serious Games: References, Resources and Templates

This is part of a series of posts on Serious Games. To read the whole series, see the first section: What is a game?

References, Resources, Templates


Games and Education in General

Games and Healthcare Training

Second Life

Virtual Patient Standard and Applications

Pervasive Games

Games and Patient Education and Rehabilitation



Posted by emeiselm at 04:53 PM | Comments (0)

The role of search in corporate learning programs

Enterprise Search as Learning Technology

With the current training industry interest in elearning trends like informal learning, social and collaborative Web 2.0 learning technologies, it's easy to overlook the importance of the humble search box as a learning tool.

More important now than ever

In a time of economic downturn where so many people are being laid off or retired without being replaced, there will inevitably be fewer experienced workers. Corporate memory shrinks and enterprise search becomes even more crucial, as inexperienced users require access to information. Today's worker wears many hats and is constantly learning.

As companies seek to squeeze more productivity out of fewer people and resources, one way to improve efficiency is to connect people with the information they need, as rapidly as possible. The barriers that exist between people and resources within company intranets are profound and economically significant. When the search engine is not up to the task, employees have few options to find the information they need: they can try to click through hundreds of irrelevant and outdated results, they can do multiple searches, attempting to find a search term that yields better results, they can ask a more experienced coworker for a pointer to the information, or they may try to consult a confusing and outdated list of links or bookmarks. In frustration they will probably go to Google or possibly even Twitter to find external information that is relevant, if not entirely in accord with company policy.

Walls around information

Corporations spend millions to create online training. Typically, much of that training is locked away in content packages sequestered in Learning Management Systems. How much of it can be directly searched? How much can be accessed "just-in-time"? Learning Management Systems usually only allow searches based on metadata, not content. Metadata is a notoriously poor way to know what is inside. Does this mean there are adequate reference guides or tutorials available available on-demand outside the formal context of the course? Sometimes, but not always. And even if they are there, they need to be discoverable! If the information in these courses is actually worth something, it should be as accessible as possible to employees that have the right to see it. Within a company there is always a tension between protecting confidential information and the need for efficient access to that information - the lines drawn may need to be evaluated and re-evaluated as times change.

Just-in-time and on-demand training

Employees may be trained weeks or months before putting their new skills into practice. At the point of use, they will likely need a refresher on detail or on the entire topic, but faster than reviewing an entire course. Ideally this information should be available just-in-time, accurately and rapidly. People will search for it based on the task they want to accomplish, not on the solution. If they have taken a course on it, they may search for it by the title of the course, but may not necessarily go to the LMS for that search. Adult learners are very goal-oriented. Wherever the information is, no matter what system it is buried in, it should be discoverable, if not actually visible to users with no permission to see it.

According to Jay Cross in a recent interview on Informal Learning:

Searching for information hidden in people

One of the benefits of social networks is the ability to discover people with ideas and skills. As a friend of mine once said about the business case for using Twitter: "...because the smartest people don't work at your company!" I would offer a corollary: "Because the smartest people don't work in your department!" would be my case for using Intranet social networking. People are fuzzy objects, constantly changing and difficult to define by skills. Putting their names in a talent management system, with a list of skills or courses they have taken or "goals" they have accomplished may not be the best way to find the skills you need within the organization. Things change too fast to be boxed in by job description or learning plan. Ideally some of this social networking data could be included in a corporate search portal, in some useful way.

Discovery of related topics

Ideally, a good search engine will be semantically sophisticated, can guess what searcher really means, and may suggest alternate searches or related topics. This is where informal learning is at its best. Looking for information on one topic could lead the searcher to a more helpful category.

Efficient access to information requires more than one technological solution, but since people tend to try the path of least resistance first - the main intranet search - using that search box should get them at least part of the way there.

Search is a two way street

When a user searches for information or help on a topic, they use what they know at the time, which is not necessarily the same as the keywords used in the solution. Modern search engines learn based on a variety of inputs, including result links that get clicked in each query, related queries, bounce rate, etc. So while the search engine is providing information to the users, they are providing information back to the search engine.

Enterprise Search: making the business case for improvement

Companies spend millions on training but not much on that last mile: fast, accurate access to the policies and up-to-date information that are needed in the unpredictable and changing workplace. For example, in healthcare, if a nurse spends 10 minutes extra searching for information needed right now, that has a real cost. If she comes up with an out-of-date policy or instructions, that can have an even greater cost. The same is true in other industries: access to the right information and the right just-in-time training is crucial.

Further, (anonymized) search trends can be used to help determine what training resources need to be added, or what topics need to be modified to reflect the way people contextualize their information: does what is out there really answer the questions people are asking? I frequently use search results from a department wiki in deciding what articles and tutorials to work on. I may think I've filled a need by creating a tutorial on a specific task, only to discover through watching searches that what is really needed is a set of tutorials or checklists on one or more end-to-end processes that incorporate that task.

According to a recent study of Global Intranet Practices & Trends, over half the organizations surveyed responded that their employees were not satisfied with their intranet search. The reasons why enterprise search is in such a poor state include the cost of upgrading it, as well as the perception that the intranet is neither a priority nor essential for daily work. This is a perception that needs to change to help align learning and learners with strategic goals.

Posted by emeiselm at 04:51 PM | Comments (0)

February 16, 2009

Enable commenting in Adobe Reader, then use a PDF as a whiteboard

Writing notes and sketching on PDF's using a Tablet PC can be an excellent replacement for a blackboard or whiteboard in the classroom, meetings or lectures. Easier than using Powerpoint, especially when you want to improvise, it is particularly useful for annotating complex diagrams, music, mathematical problems, or anything requiring gridlines or graph paper.

On a Lenovo Tablet PC, you can use the clipping function to drop PDF's into the Journal application and type or write on them with the pen. The pen has good enough resolution to write legibly, and draw lines and curves.

Picture 14.jpeg

Marked up PDF's make good digital handouts, because the entire multi-page file can be saved complete with your comments, arrows and sketch-lines intact on all pages. After the lecture just save the file, and put it online for download by your class or audience. The main drawback with using the Pencil tool rather than the pen in Journal is that the Pencil tool isn't as smooth and responsive.

However, on some PDF's you'll find that even when the Comment & Markup toolbar is enabled, it does not show up. This is because the commenting rights are not enabled, which can be fixed in Acrobat Pro. (see image below)


No comment bar

Open the PDF in Acrobat, select Extend Features in Adobe Reader from the Advanced menu. The message shown below will pop up, and once you click "Save Now" it will be Comment-enabled.

Picture 13.jpeg

Posted by emeiselm at 11:06 PM | Comments (0)

April 26, 2007

A SCORM-compatible learning module template: Part 1 of 6

Part 1: Features, Outline your Module
Part 2: Creating the Navigation
Part 3: Other Configuration Elements
Part 4: Start Building Your Pages
Part 5: Modifying the CSS Styles
Part 6: Branching Behavior


This HTML template is designed to simplify the creation of SCORM-compatible learning modules. Some of the features include:

  Example of a finished module based on the template. The look of the template has changed slightly since this article was first written.
The navigation bar on this module is an example of the current template style.


Getting Started

Get the files

Download the template files here

Module-specific folders

You will notice that several of the directories have two versions - a "global" version and a "local" version ("css-local," "includes-local," and "js-local"). There is also a "media" folder which is where you will put your module-specific images. This is because on our production server, we use a version control process where the global folders are replaced with symlinks, so that changes to the template will immediately update all templates on the server. Changes made in the local folders will affect that module only.

The files in the "local" directories and files can be modified as needed, and can be used to override many global settings. For example, the CSS styles can be changed by adding styles to the file "css-local/userStyles.css."

The directory structure of each module.

Outline your module's structure

Start by outlining your entire learning module. List all the pages you want to include. You can change the list after you get started, so don't worry if there are items you aren't sure about.The module structure can be very simple as shown in Example 1, or more structured with chapters and sections as shown in Example 2. This template can accommodate up to four levels if needed.

Example 1

The outline below shows a flat structure, with all pages on the same hierarchical level. In this example, all items would be on level 1.


This is the navbar that results from this outline. Links to all items are visible at all times.

Simple structure outline


navbar from simple outline

Example 2

This outline shows a more complex hierarchical structure with chapters and sub-sections. In this example, the Competency Criteria page and the Chapter Introductions would be on level 1 and the Subtopics would all be on level 2.


This is the navbar that results from this outline. Only the top level (level1) items are visible at all times. Other levels are visible when browsing any page in the respective chapter. NOTE: each page on level 1 should have a different chapter number.

Hierarchical Structure outline

array for hierarchical outline


Part 1: Features, Outline your Module
Part 2: Creating the Navigation
Part 3: Other Configuration Elements
Part 4: Start Building Your Pages
Part 5: Modifying the CSS Styles
Part 6: Branching Behavior

For more articles on scorm, web development, powerpoint and other topics, see The Designspace

Posted by emeiselm at 09:35 PM | Comments (0)