I have always enjoyed the eLearning Guild’s eBooks and they just released a new one – 58 Tips for Breakthrough Instructional Design. It has some great tips on research, design, development and project management, all coming from 14 experts in the field. Oh yeah, it’s free too. Access it here.
As a side note, you may have noticed it has been quite a while since my last post. Work, and life, have been extremely busy for me. However, I am making it a point to get back on track with writing new posts.
Thanks for your patience and for visiting my blog.
In my last post I gave an overview of my DemoFest course, Intro to Office 2010. I would like to delve into the analysis and design of the course.
When this project was brought to me it involved training for both a Windows 7 and Office 2010 upgrade, which is why some of the documents included here references Windows 7 in addition to the Office upgrade. My first step for any training project is the needs analysis, albeit it is often very informal when on short time-lines like this project. Because I had been teaching a face-to-face computer basics class, including some Office training, I had already a big jump on both knowing the audience and how they use the systems that were being upgraded. I also was provided a second work PC with Windows 7 and Office 2010 loaded on it. This allowed me to use and learn the Windows 7 operating system and Office 2010 applications while simultaneously identifying the changes staff will encounter. Keep in mind, I still had my current PC so I had the luxury of being able to make comparisons of the old and new. Once I identified the learning needs, which by the way were more numerous in Outlook due to bigger changes to Outlook from 2007 to 2010 than in the other Office apps, I was ready to draft a course design plan.
The course design plan is crucial in creating an effective course and includes everything from the rationale for the course to its evaluation plan. I am providing a link so you may see a copy of the course design plan (CDP). I always circle back to my stakeholders and share the CDP with them. It shows the approach I am taking and exactly what will be taught. Keep in mind it did not reference much regarding social media. It focused mostly on the asynchronous online course itself. The social media and Intranet page were components that evolved during the development stage. FYI: If you would like to know more about my approach to writing course design plans, please visit my post on CDPs.
Once the CDP was completed and reviewed by my stakeholders and subject matter experts, I like them to sign off on it, I began storyboarding the course. It is important to note, I am a “one person e-learning shop,” so when I storyboard they are not handed off to developers or anyone else. These are tools for my own design and development process. So, as you can see in the examples below, they include enough detail for my own review and get quite messy. If I worked with others I would create much cleaner versions. Either way, below are several examples that show a bit of the process. Once storyboards were developed, and rewritten a few times, I then had the content, navigation, development tools needed, etc. I am was now ready move on to developing the course.
Regarding the Windows 7 content that was scrapped just prior to implementation, because the course was non-linear, but had a separate section for Windows 7 sims, it was easy to isolate that section of the course and remove it. Actually, because the interface was built in Flash all I had to do was remove the button to the section and introductory reference to it. I will speak more to that in the next post in which I address course development.
View the course – Introduction to Office 2010
Several things of interest I recently wandered upon that I would like to share.
Kevin Thorn, a.k.a. Nugget Head, recently published an article in eLearn Magazine, The Art of Storyboarding, that is a very worthwhile read. Storyboarding is a crucial skill to have in our elearning world and Kevin offers great insight on its uses and value in elearning design along with a bit about the history of storyboarding.
Also, NPR had a story regarding the myth of learning styles that is worth a listen. Although this is probably not news to many in the world of ISD, it did get many instructional designers on twitter (my PLN) discussing, and paying more attention to, the subject. Give it a listen below. It also sheds light on some teaching methods that do work.
This month’s Big Question at the Learning Circuits blog is “How do you make e-learning fun?”
Before listing my ideas regarding e-learning fun, I do want to note that just because it’s fun does not necessarily mean learning objectives are being met, that it is relevant to participants’ learning needs, that it will motivate learners, etc. However, incorporating elements that are fun will keep the learner’s attention, make it an enjoyable experience and hopefully get people talking the course up to others. For me, one of the greatest compliments is when people say, “the course was fun and I learned a lot too.” FYI: If you are looking for a good way to engage and motive learners, in addition to making them fun, take a look at the ARCS Model and Gagne’s Nine Events of Learning.
Back to the Big Question, here is how I make e-learning fun:
- Add humor. When appropriate of course and never, ever offensive.
- Add fun characters. I like to use numerous characters to break up any monotony, add conversations and even increase attention by creating tension between characters.
- Incorporate games into courses or make the entire course a game itself.
- Silliness is a great way to get the audience’s attention and focus on specific content you want to be memorable.
- Incorporate interaction between audience members. Perhaps pose fun questions or topics they can discuss and make sure they know it is OK to have a fun, lighthearted discussion. Incorporating social media can help make this happen.
In regards to when to make e-learning fun, I try my best to make it fun whenever I can pull it off. Some topics do not easily lend themselves to being fun and if it is something emotionally sensitive then I keep it serious as not to offend. The same goes for topics that the audience and/or stakeholders take very, very seriously and do not want misinterpreted as something to be taken lightly.
Before the month of May ends I want to add one more thing to my response to the May Big Question -#LCBQ.
If you read my last post you may remember I am currently in a situation where training must be provided on very short notice and I listed how I am attempting to get this done. Something I touched upon was communication, but because communication and marketing training is very important in this type of situation I wanted to expand a bit more on the topic. I have written about marketing courses before, but the last minute nature of on-demand situations makes marketing even more crucial for the audience to know it’s available in addition to generating interest and motivation.
So, in an “on-demand” scenario also be prepared to:
- Get the e-mail blasts ready with direct links to the learning resources you are offering – make it easy for them to access immediately.
- Announce the course, job aids, blog etc. on the LMS and/or intranet – again providing direct links.
- Give the heads up to supervisors to gain their support and get a buzz going. In fact, getting announcements in their meetings is big plus. Getting face time in their meetings yourself is good too. Encourage SMEs and stakeholders to talk it up also.
Remember, always include a good description of what is being offered and the benefits of participating – if it is relevant, they will attend.
In my prior post, The Other Stakeholder Wants It Now Too, I had focused on the learners’ need for “on-demand” learning. This month’s Big Question at Learning Circuits is “How do we need to change in what we do in order to address learning/performance needs that are on-demand?”
At this moment I happen to be in a situation where a major software system upgrade is going to occur in a matter of weeks. Staff do not have the luxury of waiting for me to design, develop and implement a thorough set of learning events. Here is one real life example of what is done in an “on demand” situation.
- An immediate sit down with the SMEs to identify the audience and the changes to the system (luckily, I have worked with this audience and system before) and to gain access to the new system.
- Use the new system myself to further identify learning needs and challenges the audience may encounter, while grabbing screenshots and creating job aids for the tasks the audience will need to learn in the upgraded system. If you are a fan of the ADDIE model, this would be like trying one’s best to lump the analysis, design and development phases together into a very, very short period of time… It is not pretty, but it is what happens in an “on-demand” situation.
- Get a blog on the Intranet where I can provide ongoing support, additional learning materials, tips and tricks and a place for staff to share their knowledge of using the new system.
- Communicate details about the upgrade including its features, benefits and motivate learners to master the new system. Oh yeah, get them the job aids they need.
- If time allows, I will build some impromptu simulations in addition to the job aids.
None of this is pretty, but this is what I have had to scratch together to address on-demand learning needs in this particular situation. Luckily, job aids and on-going support via the blog should get the learners up to speed for this upgrade… Wish me luck.
FYI: This post may not directly address the question of how we need to change but rather be an example of what is done in one particular “on-demand” scenario. I will say we cannot completely skip analysis and design phases, but need to be able to think on our feet and do our best to conduct very quick, informal analyses and design on the fly in these situations.
A Priest, A Rabbi and an Instructional Designer Are in a Bar and Identify a Training Need: A response to the #LCBQ
The Learning Circuits Big Question is how do we address the “I want it now” demand from stakeholders. Of course stakeholders come to training departments all the time demanding training and we need to look at the problem first as Jay Cross was quick to point out. So, assuming a training need actually does exist, how do we approach the I want it now demands?
It is important to note that I am writing from the perspective of an e-learning designer in a corporate training department. This is important because we typically have numerous advantages in dealing with stakeholders that consultants do not always have:
- Corporate training departments have a greater ability of push-back on projects. For the most part our stakeholders are internal customers and we do not have the same risks of losing contracts when we push-back.
- We have had the time to “condition” the stakeholders over time to bring us to the table as early as possible. We have also educated them on the design and development process, and the time required, within the organization.
- We more likely have the experience of working with the stakeholder, audience, SMEs, the organization’s LMS, specific applications or technology, etc. so we can hit the ground running.
Now with all that out of the way, if the stakeholder has the “I want it now” attitude here are some tips to delivering a course sooner than later (never with out risk to the quality of the training):
- Shorten the process – Here is an outline of the e-Learning Process from Inception to Evaluation, which I used for a team presentation back in 2005. If you follow the ADDIE model it is still pertinent and as you can see there are corners to be cut that will shorten the timeline required. I make it a point to inform stakeholders of the process involved, provide a timeline and project management form that helps give them an idea of when deliverables occur and what their roles and responsibilities are in the process. Note: My first cuts in the timeline are to their deliverables. Plenty of time can be shaved off by reducing their review time alone. I still expect thorough reviews, but to be done in only several days not weeks. Other shortcuts may include the needs analysis, which may have to be very informal, less investment in testing, etc. Remember, risks come with these shortcuts.
- Reduce the amount of interactivity and/or media use. Usually audio is off the table first, which I always add last anyway and do not see it as adding much instructional value to most courses anyway. It is as we say “a nice to do.”
And if they still insist with “I want it now” here are some more things that can be done even if reluctantly.
- Up front “just in time” training materials (e.g., job aids, guides, manuals) until you can provide a course. FYI: There are occasions where these actually may be more effective than a course, but that is usually identified during the design phase.
- Captivate demos, Screenr videos, podcasts, webinars, and/or other quick to develop online materials. Note: Although they may be quick to develop, invest as much time into design as you are afforded even if a minimal amount.
- Learning labs – not necessarily a classroom training, but as a facilitator (maybe bring in the SMEs too) have an informal introduction to the subject, or if it is systems training provide a chance to use the system and experiment with what it will/can do.
- Provide a course that has EVEN less interactive elements, media use, fewer graphics with revisions and more instructionally sound content to be added at later time. However, be very careful not to make this the norm and get stuck in the “rapid e-learning” rut of producing dreck and calling it training.
- Be sure to provide an addendum to any course design plan that outlines what will be done within the limited timeline requested and the consequences of cutting corners. This does not solve the problem, but reiterates the need for a more effective development timeline and approach. A bit of C.Y.A. too.
It is important to note that if you do manage to develop something in a unreasonably short period of time, but sacrifice quality it will have negative consequences to learning in your organization and to your department’s reputation.
There will be no shortage of stakeholders demanding training on very short notice. It is something we need to reduce by managing expectations and being brought to the table as early as possible. If you do need to make big compromises, remember those same stakeholders that say they want it now may also be quick to come back at you with something like, “Your training was ineffective. What happened?”
Oh, the priest, rabbi and instructional designer identified a training need, collaborated on designing an effective learning program which was not implemented until it was damn well ready to be implemented.
Recently I had the pleasure of attending a presentation by the eLearning Coach, Connie Malamed, at an ISD breakfast we have for our Johns Hopkins instructional designers. The presentation was titled “Your Brain on Graphics.” As most instructional designers know, graphics used effectively can greatly increase the efficacy of a learning event. However, Connie took it a step further and introduced us to how are brains are wired for graphics and shared great advice and examples of uber-effective use of graphics.
Her site, www.theelearningcoach.com, is an invaluable resource for learning more about using graphics in elearning, along with many other great resources and advice on elearning and instructional design she shares there. She also has written a book, “Visual Language for Designers,” which I am adding to my reading list.
So, thank you eLearning Coach for the fantastic presentation and for sharing your knowledge at theelearningcoach.com.