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Made in IBM Labs: IBM Launches Innovative Tools to Create Custom Learning Courses in Real-Time


Enables Employers to Empower Staff to Boost Skills for Competitive Advantage

ARMONK, NY - 30 Oct 2006: IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced new technologies and consulting services that are designed to allow employees to automatically create customized, Web-based learning courses for their personal use, in real-time.

Developed by IBM Research, the world’s largest IT research organization, and by IBM’s Human Capital Management and Learning Solutions practices, these two new software tools, Dynamic Learning Experience (DLE) and MAGIC (Metadata Automated Generation for Information Content), work in tandem to streamline the preparation and assembly of learning material, including documents and video content. These tools are specifically designed to help make learning easy and attractive to employees.

These tools are part of IBM’s robust portfolio of learning capabilities and can be integrated into any learning solution by learning consultants in IBM’s Human Capital Management practice.

Today, most repositories of learning materials are difficult to navigate and reside across companies in multiple and often incompatible IT systems. They do not offer the ability for customization by employees needing to tackle particular areas of learning. Additionally, this complexity does not encourage employees to proactively learn and keep their skills up to date -- an area of critical competitive advantage.

“DLE and MAGIC exemplify IBM’s concept of innovation: invention applied to practical business challenges -- in this case the future of work,” said Yael Ravin, Program Director, Learning and Organizational Performance, IBM Research. “As the nature of work continues to change, ’one-size-fits-all’ courses simply don’t fit the needs of many professionals. These technologies allow users to not only learn in small amounts of time, but to take control of their learning by customizing content and other options to fit their individual needs and preferences.”

DLE allows users create a custom course by specifying their subject matter interest, time available and desired depth of study, via a search interface specifically designed for DLE. The system automatically selects and arranges learning content to fit the user’s parameters, creating anything from a brief overview to an in-depth course from any number of databases. It is particularly well-suited for users who must quickly get up to speed on complex material.

MAGIC helps instructors and knowledge managers prepare content for DLE and other delivery systems. MAGIC first automates the process of creating metadata -- a title, description and keywords -- and associates, or tags, them with the available learning material from any number of databases. This establishes a standardized library of “learning objects” that users can then assemble into custom courses using DLE.

DLE courses are arranged in a logical progression of topics, based on a patent-pending dynamic assembly algorithm. They follow a standard pedagogical sequence, from introduction to motivation, to definitions to procedures. Courses can be played immediately, bookmarked for easy reference, reorganized with drag-and-drop ease, and shared with other users.

Dynamic Learning combats information overload, reducing the time and effort spent searching for and accessing relevant content compared with a typical enterprise search engine. In a controlled experiment, users of similar experience levels performed significantly better on a given task using DLE compared with users of a more generic search engine. DLE enables users to focus on learning, rather than simply finding quick answers.

Accessing relevant learning material depends heavily on the quality of metadata. Designed specifically to optimize the process of preparing learning material, MAGIC delivers key benefits to instructional designers. Creating metadata manually is both time- and labor-intensive, and is prone to inconsistencies. A human annotator may take up to 10 minutes per page to assign metadata, such as keywords, topics or summaries, while the MAGIC system can process 200-400 pages per hour, with good accuracy. MAGIC, which is built upon advanced text and video processing capabilities, and a general-purpose taxonomy, or category listing, can also be used to segment long documents or videos into smaller modules, and tag each one appropriately.

“IBM’s research-backed portfolio of learning solutions sets us apart from other players in this space,” noted Mary Kay Vona, Global Executive, IBM Learning Solutions, a key consulting practice within IBM Human Capital Management. “Our solutions not only help our clients meet the challenges of equipping employees with new skills, but enable them to use learning to create competitive advantage. DLE and MAGIC, for example, give users access to content before it makes its way into the classroom or online courses. Clients as diverse as government agencies and telecommunications giants have benefited from the ability to assemble reference material authored by subject matter experts into new, custom courses.”

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