USDLA Newsletter

July 2015

Technology and Trends

A Snapshot of Emerging Learning Technology Market Leader: Scrimmage

We recently spoke with Derek Lundsten, CEO of Scrimmage, LLC, about emerging technologies in the workplace. Scrimmage is a technology firm with state-of-the-art mobile learning, gamification, training, and collaboration products, as well as high-level metrics and analytics within its ecosystem of solutions. Scrimmage has offices in Minneapolis, MN, and Manalapan, NJ. Mr. Lundsten can be reached at: For more information, visit:

Can you provide us with some background on your company, Scrimmage, and its distance learning capabilities or initiatives?

Founded in 2010 by Casey Collins, Scrimmage set out to directly link adult learning with mobile technology. This strategic path was highly practical in the evolving world of technology and offered many efficiencies for the learner, especially as businesses were moving toward the mobility model. At this point, the smartphone had already been on the market and the laptop computer (verses the traditional desktop computer) was a regularly-used device. Meanwhile, the iPad was just being introduced in Spring 2010. Scrimmage actually built its mobile learning platform in recognition of the transformative nature of the iPad and its future impact on business, as well as to anticipate the needs of its clients – while still creating technologies and learning solutions that were in accordance with all devices.

From the start, the Scrimmage Ecosystem was a cost-effective mobile learning platform. It was flexible and scalable and addressed the preferences and hardware needs of both organizations and individuals, while still allowing room for growth. The Ecosystem was built to be responsive, collaborative and adaptive to various environments. Scrimmage has been proactive in innovation and developed enterprise mobile learning technologies to match the needs of small businesses to global organizations and conglomerates. It has always been a goal at Scrimmage to deliver a full suite of integrated applications via one platform, whether it is for onboarding, sales enablement programs, management development initiatives, coaching, or training. We offer not only various vehicles for content, but also a gamification hub, full metrics, analytics and dashboards, plus real-time collaboration tools, agendas, and event apps. Today, with over 40 enterprise clients and more than 65,000 active global users, Scrimmage is focused on being forward-thinking, while creating a dynamic and ever-evolving SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) solution that always encourages performance and enforces learning.

How do you see the current corporate landscape utilizing distance learning and training?

With the ubiquity of mobile technology, the lines are quickly blurring between our work and personal lives. Yet, at the same time, they can truly learn from each other, particularly in this sector.

On a consumer (and personal) level, we perpetually play games, watch videos, access news, search for relevant content, engage in social media, use live messaging, as well as receive pushed content based on our likes, interests and preferences – all on our various mobile devices. Scrimmage is continually striving to create a similar, engaging experience for learners in the workplace. As the technologies evolve, we use these various tools or features and actually parlay them to learning in the workplace.

Moreover, as the mainstay of eLearning and LMS (Learning Management System) platforms, content will always be fundamental. However, there is a shift in the paradigm to make learning personal, engaging, fun, yet still practical verses traditional learning technology tools that focus on required learning paths and more static content.

Many companies are also encouraging BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) initiatives to lower costs, which can offer its own challenges. Again, it means providing the same learning tools and platform across a range of devices, systems and browsers. Thus, mobile learning becomes an imperative strategy, in order to level the playing field for everyone. With Scrimmage, for instance, our platform can always be (securely) accessed on the web or via its native application.

What do you see as trends going forward in the distance learning space, especially in the workplace?

There are a lot of exciting trends in this area of learning that technology is further facilitating. I would like to focus on three interesting trends within mobile technology, as it relates to the corporate environment.

The first trend is the combination of Mobility and the Cloud. We are now reaching a point where companies have become more comfortable with the security of the Cloud. More and more companies across all industries are less resistant and ready to adopt mobile technology, as an effective business and sales strategy. Our platform, in particular, offers both web-based and native mobile applications. So, learning and training materials are available at any time, in any place, on any device. Presentations, videos, new messaging, and other assets can be easily available to help guide onboarding, ongoing training, or selling. And while it is all managed through the cloud, the mobile application is optimized, personalized, and engaging for end-users, yet still provides a top level of security for administrators. In fact, it is this type of blending that top companies are seeking. Meanwhile, the Cloud is an area of hot debate and growth for our international clientele, which is equally exciting.

Another great trend is the rollout of more effective mobile collaboration tools in the workplace. Basic examples include video classes, video coaching, and content sharing. These tools offer incredible possibilities as another forum for delivering best practices, asking pointed questions, or developing team-building initiatives. These collaboration tools provide additional and crucial opportunities to engage “just in time” or “on-demand” – so information and data can always be current. These tools are also proving to be another viable method of knowledge retention. Bottom line: The concept of being able to use our tablets and phones for more interactive communication with certain apps, or to have the ability of being in multiple places in a single day, but still engaged in a collaborative process, is incredible. These mobile tools only increase the opportunity for better collaboration between teams.

The third trend is Social Learning, based on the dynamics of Social Media. We have seen the boom of usage in social media, with the next wave around learning. Similar to the previous point, learning is experiencing an evolution. In the past, learning was not only in the classroom, but it was very much a teacher-to-student relationship. Over the last 20 years, it has been more about learning through groups and amongst peers. Social learning encompasses communities with more opportunities for real-time interactions and connections among peers, instructors, managers, or coaches. It offers additional avenue of learning, sharing, and engaging beyond the standard lecture and eLearning formats, while still having the ability to measure knowledge and the amount of learning taking place.

Are there specific learning tools that you believe offer certain value-added benefits?

The rise in Gamification is one area that is proving to be extremely popular and adds significant value to corporate learning and training initiatives. It is being utilized with onboarding, along with general sales enablement programs. As an example, our Gamification platform known as Queue, takes the required content and makes it fun and competitive, but still measurable. In essence, the learning experience has actually been “gamified” by creating questions and challenges that tie into leaderboards, badges, and other incentives. Sales people by nature are competitive; so, it directly compliments their learning style. This form of learning allows knowledge to be acquired in a more effective way and, ultimately, is reinforced through a peer-to-peer accountability – but, all in a fun way. And, it is measurable, which provides vital analytics, so you know which content is working (or not working), as well as highlighting additional training or coaching needs.

As another avenue of learning, I know Scrimmage often incorporates and utilizes dynamic assets and collaboration tools for its client’s platforms. For example, with the onboarding process of new sales representatives, more value is garnered if a variety of resources are offered to users, as some prefer to watch training videos, some like to read, some like to share and have discussion forums (collaboration tools), or some simply learn by practice (including gamification). Sales representatives like variety and their learning process can then be based on preferences. We build these various types of learning into the Scrimmage platform to simply offer options and encourage engagement. We have even created a radio program with our client, Stryker Orthopaedics, as their sales representatives often have long drives between their own clients and can instead fill this otherwise (valuable) downtime to learn while on the road.

The future of distance and mobile learning is truly exciting, especially as we are able to use technology to bridge the gap between corporate learning initiatives and overall business operations.

Can you give a few practical examples or applications of how the Scrimmage learning model has worked for your clients?

Actually, I’d like to bring into this discussion a client that was just mentioned, Stryker Orthopaedics, and expand on its platform. Management came to us a few years ago with a common issue that I continually see to this day. At the time, they had five different and separate learning portals and applications that really did not interface with each other. Users had difficulty understanding what information was where, not to mention the numerous, time-consuming and overwhelming administration challenges.

Stryker Orthopaedics is a global, Fortune 100 company and a leader of surgical implant products with over 26,000 employees within 14 divisions. As Jeffrey Strumpf, Senior Manager, Mobile Marketing & Education Services, clearly states, “Education is at the forefront of everything we do at Stryker – from surgeons to patients to sales representatives to internal employees at our headquarters. Stryker embraces a philosophy of ongoing learning and discovery that is instilled across our business.”

Together, Scrimmage and Stryker created an industry-leading, mobile learning platform that became branded as iLearn. Today, iLearn is used by Stryker's various stakeholders in over 4,900 cities and 460 countries around the world. From the iLearn platform, it became a one-stop shop for all content, agendas, surveys, metrics, training, in addition to Stryker TV and Stryker Radio. Everything was now consolidated into one location and one platform for both users and administrators, with easy remote access on any device. As Mr. Strumpf says, “Regardless of where you reside, you will share the same learning experience through iLearn.”

Over the past three years since its implementation, the Scrimmage mobile platform has collectively changed the learning and performance game for the Stryker organization. Mr. Strumpf reiterates, the iLearn curriculum has “Driven efficiencies, engagement and saved the business millions of dollars in the training process, by reducing our reliance on printing, travel, and other tangible costs,” not to mention the intangibles of otherwise lost business opportunities. The sales representatives continually applaud the organizational capabilities of iLearn and their ability to review materials on their downtime, as well as the opportunity to review information when necessary. They also appreciate its interactivity and even refer to iLearn as their own personal trainer. Stryker Orthopaedics has proven to be an organization willing to adapt to change. The company has pushed the envelope when it comes to technology, become an early adopter of new features, and remains a longstanding partner with Scrimmage.

You briefly mentioned one challenge with these new trends or technologies is the security issue. Along with this issue, do you foresee or have you heard of other challenges with regards to Mobile Learning in the workplace?

Of course, our client’s content is proprietary and highly guarded. After all, learning platforms are often initiated for new product launches, new product capabilities, product extensions, and new hires to capitalize on revenues and maintain a competitive advantage. At Scrimmage, we always ensure that any mobile learning application is secure, just as much as it is a scalable, flexible learning solution to allow for new training materials or new technologies.

At the same time, I also think the biggest challenge for a corporate learning environment is to embrace the openness or free forum of the social learning model. After all, the tech-savvy Millennials are quickly entering the workforce and will soon be 75 million strong. They want on-demand, interactive, social learning capabilities. Management will have to be a player in the process. Ironically, I think it will be mobile technology and its versatility among various devices that will play a role in breaking down these barriers within the corporate setting.


Learning Virtues of Telepresence Robots

Jeff Goldsmith, VP Marketing
Revolve Robotics

In education, it’s rare that one single innovation has the potential to solve many issues for both teachers and students alike. However, we are currently witnessing the rise of just such a solution.

Now, children no longer need to fall behind and be isolated at home when they become ill. Instead they can interact with fellow students and stay up to speed in class, as if they were actually there. Teachers can now be available to teach where they are needed, instantly, instead of driving across districts. Schools can now benefit from experts of all kinds who can engage more effectively at a distance than ever before. The addition of one subtle interactive control is allowing this vision to become a reality.

Simple robotic telepresence devices like Kubi, which our company created, increase engagement of participants on both ends of an interaction, and make it possible to connect through a single click of a webpage. Such web technologies mean we don't need to install a download, or be present simply on a screen on a wall. Attending to such details is required in a world of intuitive touch screens and a generation that expects completely fluid transitions from calendar alert, to click, to class - participating in the venue just as someone present would.

With far end camera control, telepresence robots turn passive talking heads on a flat screen mounted on a wall into active participants in the learning environment whether a university lecture hall, a community college seminar, or class in a rural high school. The didactic method demands interaction, students and teachers must be present to engage, because how else could Socrates size up the reaction of Plato to one of his epic stumpers?

The virtue of being present and engaged is that students can offer clear answers to the class, and teachers will be more apt to give them attention if they do. Large video monitors with a Hollywood Squares format will feel retro soon enough, if it doesn’t already, and this should be no surprise. Tinny speaker phones quickly evolved into audio conferencing from Polycom. Clunky video conferencing begat expensive telepresence from Cisco. Now, those trends are merging so that students and teachers can be more present and engage with everyone in a room, whether physically there, or afar. The virtue of creative destruction is more, better, faster, and much cheaper.

In other words, everyone can now afford to be present as a robot instead of being wherever we are supposed to be.

A combination of ease of use and the rapidly approaching ubiquity of web-based video connectivity heralds a new phase of distance learning. For this to happen, inexpensive telepresence robots must just work with no difficulties, and that is what’s happening. Complexity and costs are both rapidly collapsing driven by competitive forces, and by a consumer culture that expects interactive products to be free, easy, always on, and everywhere.

We can now bridge the gap and the distance affordably, so all schools can give enrolled students the flexibility of online learning blended with actually being in their assigned seats. Massive online classes fired our imaginations, with brand name schools offering courses that reach global audiences. Mass market online learning filled a need for working people who succeeded at gaining ground with the first phase of distance learning. Those experiments can be leveraged to help kids in K-12 classes, a small percentage of whom are perpetually absent. However, they need not be.

Teachers also can be anywhere and be effective, which gives schools the chance to, for example, bring in curriculum they could not otherwise afford. Students will pay attention to a teacher who turns to face them, on a robot controlled by the teacher. Just as rural healthcare strives to bring experts into remote locations, rural teleteaching can provide diversity of education in rural areas where courses from ancient literature to adruino robotics would never otherwise be taught.

Engagement matters, because a teacher on a speaker phone has truly no body language, and the Hollywood Squares version of video conferencing makes that world a flat place.

This is not solely about access to subject matter experts. Telepresence means guidance counselors can offer more students wisdom and assessment experts can help more teachers grow. With this transformational technology, school nurses can become healthcare providers who can bring in psychotherapists, medical specialists, and nutritionists who can then inspire better eating habits improving lives and educational outcomes of thousands or millions of students. All of this can be done more effectively with telepresence robots.

Our company Revolve Robotics created Kubi as a pure technology because the founders were robotics experts. But now our product has found a home in the world of learning, medicine, and business. We hope to make the world a better place with Kubi. It can reduce travel, increase access, and bring people together in engaging ways without technology getting in the way. 

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