Archive | February 2009

Rationalizing a Netbook

NetbookI have been considering buying a netbook. They are very reasonable, but they have their limitations. Will it be worth buying?

Here are the pluses and minuses.

  • Plus – It’s highly mobile. Instead of schlepping my laptop around this will be a lot easier. And it still has a large enough screen size to demo my courses. My courses are never larger than 800 x 600 resolution, which is the common denominator for my e-learning audience’s screens.
  • Plus – For tasks like checking e-mail, blogging, and accessing the Internet it will work fine as long as I have access to WiFi.
  • Minus – A netbook processor is not going to handle the development software I am using (e.g. Flash, Captivate, Dreamweaver, etc.). I will still need the laptop for that. Also, I would not enjoy developing on a small screen.
  • Plus (I think) – I am starting to use Google docs. That is probably my limit as far as “working on the cloud” goes, unless you also count the blog as cloud computing. With the slow processor and more than just Google Docs being available on the cloud, the netbook will probably move me well onto (into?) the cloud out of necessity. I guess there are really pluses and minuses to cloud computing, but that is another post which I have not written yet.
  • Plus – They are cheap, starting at $300.
  • Minus – I don’t have $300.

There are a lot more pluses than minuses. Granted, it will not replace my laptop when it comes to developing e-learning, but it will be a nice gadget for all my other typical computer tasks.

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Online Professional Networking / Linked In Class So Far

LinkedIn logo
Thus far, I have conducted five face-to-face online professional networking classes, which focuses on leveraging Linked In for finding business opportunities and professional development opportunities. Class participants are bankers and/or staff from the bank’s support areas and most are very new to social media. I will highlight what has generated the most interest and discussion among the participants.
Groups

  • Many were not aware of the “groups” feature in Linked In.
  • They were impressed with the number and diversity of groups.
  • They were impressed with the amount and quality of the information available in group discussions.

Events

  • Participants were very interested in using this feature for finding development opportunities.
  • They were impressed with the extent to which they could easily search and find events based on keywords.

Who to connect with and how to find connections

  • I tied this to having a completed profile. This will allow you to easily search for past colleagues and fellow alumni. This also allows Linked In to suggest possible connections using keywords in your profile.
  • Join groups – keeping an eye out for people who have common professional interests or can assist you with reaching your professional goals and/or you can assist them.
  • Participants also wanted coaching on how to introduce themselves to a potential connection. I focused on the fact that they should connect with people they know or people in which they have a common and logical connection. Always personalize the introduction and request to connect, including how you know them or found them and your reason for connecting with them.
This is what my participants had the most questions, concerns and comments about. I did cover applications such as Trip It, Huddle Workspaces, Slide Share, etc. However, interest was low in the applications, aside from Events. I believe they saw these as features for advance users and for now just want to master the basics.

 

 

 

The Video Studio is Done – Take a Tour

The video studio is now complete and ready to go. I have uploaded a tour of the studio on YouTube, which is embedded below.

 

Estimating course development times

I have seen a lot of estimates out there regarding development times per hour of e-learning content. It baffles me how some designers, not all, can rattle off “150 hours to develop an hour long course.” There may be times where we are pushed in a corner and we need to quickly estimate development time without all the information we require, but to get a realistic estimate I suggest we consider the following:

  • The complexity of the content.
  • Is there any content or literature already written that may be helpful to developing the e-learning content?
  • Multimedia required (e.g. video or audio).
  • Graphics required. Are any already available?
  • The development software required (e.g. development in Flash will take longer than Captivate).
  • Amount of interactive elements included (e.g. games, immersive simulations, software sims, psycho-motor interactives, etc.)
  • Staff’s proficiency with the development tool(s) required for developing the project.
  • Access to the subject matter experts (SME) and the designer’s familiarity with them. FYI: Each time you work with a particular SME your ability to effectively and efficiently collaborate increases.
  • LMS – Have you created a course that ran successfully on the LMS before? Just because your course is “SCORM compliant” does not mean it will run on all SCORM compliant LMS’s. Some tweaking may be required.

It is also important to note that many of the above factors cannot be determined without a needs analysis first. For example, how can we determine what the content will look like and what interactive elements are needed if we do not first identify the training needs. Yes, I know we do not often have the luxury of conducting a thorough needs analysis, but even if it is in the form of an informal conversation with the stakeholders, some analysis and identification of training needs must be made.

Please let me know if there are other considerations that should be added to this list.

FYI: The video studio is completed, but I have not found the time to give it the debut it deserves. I should have something up on the blog very soon.

User Control

Computer MouseI am a big advocate for user control. In my opinion, there are too many e-learning courses that do not allow users to navigate through the content as they wish or need. Lack of user control is contrary to many principles of adult learning theory. Allowing user control provides self-directed learning and allows users to determine their learning needs and what is relevant to their needs, all of which are important concepts in adult learning theory.

Plus, if user control is not allowed, a designer is usually limiting his or her courses to being very linear and excluding many opportunities, and benefits, of using experiential learning, situational or branching simulations, educational games, etc.

I have had people say to me, “If you allow user control or make it non-linear, users will not read all the content or just go straight to the test.” I am a realist, and there are always people who skip straight to the test/assessment. All the more reason to make courses very engaging, interactive and relevant. If done well, users will read and digest the content. If they still skip to the assessment, but the assessment is a well designed and valid measurement of learning, recognition for their need for the course will happen. And if they passed the assessment, then maybe they were already proficient with the content, capable of meeting the course’s objectives and did not need the training in the first place. 

Next time you design a course ask yourself, “Do I want to engage the learner and help guide them through a positive learning experience or dictate a learning experience?”

Given this post, readers will be able to describe my perspective on course objectives to 100% accuracy

If you write clear objectives, make sure your course’s content allows participants to meet those objectives and your assessment measures whether the objectives were met, then you are doing a great job. If not, please give me a minute of your time.

Objectives have a purpose. They are NOT just to tell participants what they will learn at the beginning of a course. I think of them as a contract. It is an agreement between the content and the audience. And the assessment measures whether the contract was fulfilled.

  • When writing objects be very clear and thorough of what will be learned. I prefer the ABCD format (Audience, Behavior, Condition, Degree).
  • The content must provide all that is needed for the learner to meet the objectives.
  • The assessment must measure whether the objectives were met. If the assessment is not tied to the objectives, then you and the learners will not be able to demonstrate if the objectives were met.

If you are writing assessment questions or content that is not “tied” to the objectives, then you must revisit the course’s objectives and determine what additional objective(s) you must add or why you are bothering the learners with irrelevant content and questions.

To be honest, I really get burnt up when there is no thought or concern when writing objectives and especially when assessments do not measure if objectives were met or if learning occurred. This is why I am ranting about it.

Objectives are your best friend when designing a course. Treat them as such.

Thank you.

The Big Question

February’s Big Question on the Learning Circuits blog is “What is the impact of the economy on you and your organization? What are you doing as a result?” Here is my response:

I am an e-Learning designer at a bank that is currently being acquired by another larger bank (this is how the economy affected my organization).  The acquisition will be complete by June, at which time I will be facing a lay-off. There is a small chance I will be offered a position, but at this time I can only speculate on that possibility. So, What am I doing?

Professional development has always been a priority of mine. This is not optional in the ever changing e-learning world. In the last year I have delved into web 2.0, which I believe has made me far more marketable. With re-entering the job market I have also begun familiarizing myself with the e-learning tools and learning management systems out there that are not part of my current tool set.  My past positions have always allowed me to choose my software (Flash, Dreamweaver, Captivate, etc.), but I want to be prepared to develop in other tools. I am very grateful to 30-day demos. And of course I must adjust to whatever LMS they already have, which I have done several times before.

Here’s the rub. I am thinking seriously about doing freelance work. Although I am actively looking for a position, I have thought about options if I do not find “the right” position for me. My alternate plan will be freelance e-learning. Not having the stability of a regular paycheck and no benefits is intimidating, but here are a few things that attract me to it.

  • Flexibility – I currently telecommute from my home office several days a week, which works really well for me. Barring any on-site needs from a client , setting my own hours and working from home is very attractive.
  • Diversity of work experience – My experience has been in both the non-profit and corporate world, but freelancing can increase the diversity of my experience and my portfolio. 
  • Work will not be monotonous – New clients, new audience, new industries and types of content, different LMS’s to curse, etc.
  • Earning potential – There will not be any limit to earnings. With a lot of ambition, a little bit of luck and long hours, I can potentially earn more than I would in a corporate training department.

One thing that confuses me is will the economic downturn be a possible boon to e-learning? I am hearing that with tightening budgets many will turn to e-learning, but I have also heard the opposite. I guess time will tell. If you are a freelance e-learning designer/developer, I would definitely appreciate your advice on considerations I should make prior to entering the market, pros and cons, or if I should run as far as I can away from the idea. I have some time to further explore this option. My exploration will include speaking to some local independent e-learning professionals here in the Maryland area and looking closely at the freelance opportunities that are currently available. In the meantime, I will also continue looking for full-time e-learning positions.