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What is the biggest challenge for instructional designers?

6 May

Recently I was asked what was is the biggest challenge for instructional designers. Now, there are multiple answers to this question – working with difficult SMEs , meeting tight deadlines with limited resources etc …

However, for me, when I think about being an instructional designer, I think about the choices I make to ensure that the learner is engaged and that the learning objectives are met. By choices, I really mean deciding the appropriate tools I should use that are available from/in my learning environment toolbox (i.e. LMS).     

Undoubtedly Ed Tech and web 2.o  technologies/applications have expanded the number of tools that I have at my disposal. However, the real challenge is selecting the best tool to achieve a specific learning objective or objectives.  

Question

This is where you need some sort of checklist or cheat sheet, so here is my rough guide:

  •  If the learning objectives focus on reflective activities then select a tool such as a blog.  Why? A blog is an excellent tool to get learners to explain how they did something, as well as provide an opportunity to give/receive feedback through comments.
  • If the learning objectives focus on group work then select a tool such as a wiki. Why? A wiki allows learners to collaborate together, but also allows the instructor to see the effort of individual members of a group.
  • If the learning objectives focus on presentation skills then select a tool such as screencasting. Why? A screencast can capture a presentation in real-time or be recorded/edited for future viewing.

 So, in sum, the work the instructional designer has to do is:

  1. Analyze the learning objectives
  2. Identify the activity/activities required
  3. Select the appropriate tool to achieve the goal of the learning objective(s)

Seems simple, but when you think about it, making the right decision ultimately determines the success of the learning. Therefore, for me, deciding the appropriate tool to achieve the learning objective is the biggest challenge an instructional designer faces.

 

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The New York Times’ Snow Fall Project and the possibilities for future learning creation

7 Jan

Just before Christmas, I began to read tweets exclaiming the New York Times“Snow Fall” project. The project not only told the amazing story of skiers and snowboarders trapped beneath an avalanche, but told that story in a groundbreaking way. Rather than the traditional newspaper approach of text and photographs, the “Snow Fall” project sought to combine text, photographs, video, and interactive graphics to create one seamless story.

Snow Fall

As the Poynter reported, the project was “a real step up not just in visual design but in coherent storytelling.” In an interview with the Poynter, Steve Duenes, the Graphics Director at the New York Times, said that the goal of the project was to “find ways to allow readers to read into, and then through multimedia, and then out of multimedia. So it didn’t feel like you were taking a detour, but the multimedia was part of the one narrative flow.”

As a learning professional who believes in the power of storytelling and creates a lot of multimedia materials (e-learning, videos, job aids, infographics, quick-reference guides etc …), the goal and success of the “Snow Fall” project is eye-opening. In my experience, the typical approach is to create material that either complements a training course or is the course (e-learning). To combine multimedia materials in one seamless narrative (course) suggests a different path. Without doubt in 2013, I’ll be thinking about to how to use the “Snow Fall” project as a template for course creation.

Lessons Learned in 2012 – No. 3: Anything can happen (and usually does)

31 Dec

This year I’ve created a range of training materials for projects that have usually involved some aspect of change, whether that has been a software upgrade or a new piece of technology. At times, it has been an exhilarating experience, where I’ve felt at the hub of change. In fact, I believe you could easily make the argument that training is the most important part of any change management process.

However, while I’ve become an expert in designing training materials that help the learner with change, I’ve also become comfortable working in an ever-changing project environment. In healthcare, projects rarely go to plan, anything can happen and usually does. The best example of this was the flood in the emergency department at Surrey Memorial Hospital (SMH) during November, 2012. The flood happened in the morning of the second week of training on the Vocera communication device. After weeks of scheduling classes, creating and printing posters, developing training scenarios, and revising lesson plans the project was put on hold. Deflating, yes. But at the same time quite the experience!

Next week, training restarts. I’m taking the “anything can happen (and usually does)” approach.

Here is my favourite write-up of the flood from the Emergency Department at SMH:

Six members of the ED Team shared moments from their experience of being on the ground when disaster struck in Surrey Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Department. Team members include: Julie Dufton, ED Manager, Tracey Aune, ED Coordinator, Lesley Young, Clinical Nurse Educator, Jessica Kromhoff, Project Lead RN, Sue Davis Clerical Supervisor and Clare Havers, Clinical Nurse Educator.

There was a persistent note of passion, pride, gratitude and a little residual shock that resonated in their voices as they shared details of that morning.

“I was gathering a report for the bed meeting when I received a call from Caitlin about a water leak in the acute room of the ED,” said Tracey Aune. “Thirty seconds later I walked into the unit to see water pouring out of the corner of the glass window.”

“I felt a moment of panic inside and then the need to act kicked in,” Tracey said. She joined others in grabbing stretchers (most patients were bed-ridden, some with cardiac monitors) in the acute area of the ED and quickly moving patients into the corridor to safety.

“There was a long line-up of stretchers down the hallway and I had the last stretcher in the line. I suddenly looked back and saw the wall break and water come gushing in. The water broke through the wall with such force it swept away everything in its path and almost immediately the water was up my knees.”

“It was like a Tsunami,” said Jessica. “When I heard the Code Orange called I came to the ED and walked into the water. Furniture and other items came floating towards me. We were anxious that the whole wall might give way.”

Clare, who saw the glass window collapse, called a Code Orange (for Disaster) and then called the fire department and RCMP.

She also used the Vocera, a new hands-free personal communications device to alert all the ED staff on shift of the emergency. “We’ve been testing this new system for use in the new ED and what a test this was in seeing how it would work in a real life situation,” Clare said.” It worked great.”

Lesley was just about to leave the ED when she saw the first trickle of water. She thought maybe a toilet had overflowed.

“Then the window gave way,” Lesley said. She took on the role of directing people out of the ED and moving them as far down the corridor away from the ED as they could go. “We just kept moving until we hit doors.”

There could have been utter chaos in the department, but instead there was a calm urgency in the directions given and the subsequent actions taken. “Everyone listened and people were doing whatever they could to help. Some were damming areas, others were using towels to sop up the water and porters were pushing water down the hallway to get it out of the ED,” said Sue.

“And it wasn’t just the front line but also leaders who helped us through this,” said Tracey, adding that people came from other departments as well to see what they could do to help.

While the first group of patients was being transported to another area, water flooded the entire ED, and other ED patients outside of the acute area started to become concerned.

“It was really important for us to reassure the patients who were wondering what was happening and who were waiting to be moved. Some were petrified and we kept talking to them to let them know they would be okay and it helped them relax a bit,” Lesley said.

Once all the patients were safe, staff went back into the water to get patient charts, equipment and whatever else they could think of that they would need to continue taking care of their patients.

“Then came the task of figuring out who is who and who needed to be on a cardiac monitor and who needed to be moved to a unit,” Tracey said.

“The site response was amazing,” said Julie. “From the initial response to the Code Orange to moving patients to the wards, everyone pitched in to support us. It was a massive team effort.”

“I’m very proud of our ED team and our entire site and grateful to our local emergency services for their extraordinary response to this disaster,” she added.

“The reaction and response was really amazing,” added Lesley. “It was like there was a central consciousness shared by everyone.”

My Top 10 Tweets of 2012

11 Dec

Twitter is such an important part of my PLN that this year I thought it would be a good idea to collate my top 10 tweets of 2012. These tweets are not my own tweets, but tweets that I have either RT or made a favourite.

1. 1

In the year of Storyline and Captivate 6, an interesting observation that shapes my instructional design decisions.

2. 2

I’ve noticed a move away from e-learning and towards video creation. A great blog post explaining why.

http://clive-shepherd.blogspot.co.uk/?view=timeslide#!/2012/08/why-video-trumps-e-learning.html

3. 3

This video will change your life (well help you explain to your manager the need for an extension to a deadline).

http://www.wimp.com/creativityaffected/

4. 4

Another fantastic observation about a trend in L&D departments this year.

5. 5

Sometimes we need big ideas to inspire. This is a big idea this inspires me about the future of learning.

6. 6

I love tweets that point to great examples of work. Here is an example of how to use Prezi that is just “wow”!

http://prezi.com/swceiv2g3bbt/60-educational-apps-in-60-minutes/

7. 7

Susan Cain’s argument about “the power of introverts” is a revelation for me, especially in the context of working in a North American workplace.

http://www.thedailymuse.com/career/surviving-as-an-introvert-in-an-extroverts-world/

8. 8

This tweet was an eye opener. Time to rethink gender and technology.

9. 9

I don’t get to go to conferences, but hashtags and live-tweeting have made me feel that I have attended several this year.

10. 10

Going to work is like reliving my childhood (sometimes).

And one extra, because sometimes Twitter delivers gems like this:

Funny

Austerity Measures: Reducing the duration of MS Office 2010 “What’s New” Training

16 Nov

Currently we are running an MS Office 2010 “What’s New” training course that is approximately 7 hours long (1 day course) and covers Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint. The course begins with a “What’s Common” section that is 1 hour-long. This section covers the common features across Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint, such as the ribbon and backstage view. See course outline below:

Feedback from the attendees indicated that although they were happy with the course, the duration of training was too long. Personally I noticed energy levels dropping during the afternoon, when the instructor covered Outlook and PowerPoint.

So how could we reduce the duration of training without compromising the course?

I believe that the duration of the course could be reduced to either ½ day or 2 hours. However, either approach would mean significant cuts to the content of the course outline.
If the duration of the course was reduced to ½ day that would mean either removing the Outlook and PowerPoint sections of the course or targeting specific content across Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint sections to remove. I would keep the “What’s Common” section intact.

If the course was reduced to 2 hours that would mean keeping the “What’s Common” section and either spending 1 hour on Word or alternatively 15 minutes each on a key aspect of Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint.

If these cuts to the course outline were enacted, learners would have less classroom time in which to learn what’s new in MS Office 2010. However, reducing the course from 1 day to ½ day or 2 hours may appeal to more learners who are unable to commit to 1 day training.

Reducing the duration of the course may also mean that learners only receive training that is directly applicable to their work. For example, the current course covers Pivot Tables in Excel. Not all learners when asked use Pivot Tables in their day-to-day work.

I would recommend reducing the duration of the course down to ½ day. This would appeal to more learners unable to commit to 1 day training and keep energy levels up during the whole training course.

How to reduce the duration needs further investigation. Removing the Outlook and PowerPoint sections could compromise the integrity of offering a “What’s New” in MS Office 2010 training course. The alternative of targeting specific content for removal from the course outline may be the best approach.

What to ask when hiring an external trainer

14 Sep

Yesterday I had the pleasure of interviewing an external trainer regarding an upcoming course. Before the interview, I was asked to come up with some key questions that would help to determine whether the candidate would be a good fit for the job.

Naturally, I turned to Rosemary Caffarella’s book Planning Programs for Adult Learners for help. In the book, Caffarella outlines nine criteria to consider when hiring an instructor:

1. Content knowledge
2. Competence in the processes of instruction
3. Ability to respond effectively to the background and experience of the participants
4. Belief that caring for learners matters
5. Credibility
6. Enthusiasm and commitment
7. Personal effectiveness
8. Enterprise knowledge
9. Ability to teach from the heart and spirit, as well as the mind.

From these nine criteria, I developed my questions for the interview, focusing mainly on classroom management skills and experience with the product.

Thankfully the candidate was great, demonstrating both knowledge of the product and also enthusiasm about training. She also outlined some challenges that she previously faced in the classroom and spoke confidently about how she overcame them. In the credibility stakes, the candidate scored highly and everyone agreed that overall she was a great fit.