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Learning Transfer – The one-sentence summary

7 May

I’ve been focusing on learning transfer this week, trying out new approaches and techniques during long running training session.

Usually, I run this particular training session with a multiple-choice quiz at the end. The quiz covers the learning objectives and learners leave the training session with the key information front and centre.  

However, this week I’ve decided to switch things up by using the “one-sentence summary” approach. The one-sentence summary approach allows learners to synthesize a process or concept by answering these questions in one sentence: who does what to whom, when, where, how and why?  

As an instructor, I’ve been able to quickly evaluate the sentence, check that the learner has fully understood the process/concept, and provide feedback if necessary.

Undoubtedly, the one-sentence summary approach has made the transfer of learning process less passive and more interactive. The only drawback is that the process takes some time to implement in a large class.  

 

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.

 

When a MOOC could be a “massive” headache cure

10 Apr

Over the past year I have taken and completed a number of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). The idea of MOOCs really appeals to me as a lifelong learner. Not only can I develop my professional skills by taking courses run by experts in their field, I can do so from the comfort of my home.

However, more recently I’ve been thinking about benefits of the “Massive” part of a MOOC, not just the benefits of the course being online and open. 

My thinking has been shaped by the “massive” projects that I have been working on lately. By “massive” I mean having to train hundreds of staff on new technology, within a short amount of time and with limited resources. Working on these type of “training projects” has traditionally required extensive planning and organizing, from creating/printing/uploading learning materials to scheduling the availability of classrooms/students.

At times, massive training projects have been massive headaches.

It is due to these headaches that I am beginning to see the potential benefits of running a MOOC.  Of course, the next step now is to design a MOOC! Maybe a different type of headache?

Challenges of implementing Flexible Learning

9 Apr

I’ve been thinking about flexible learning a lot lately. Flexible learning, according to Wikipedia, is “a set of educational philosophies and systems, concerned with providing learners with increased choice, convenience, and personalisation to suit the learner.” At the University of British Columbia (UBC), they have a flexible learning initiative that focuses on “developing, delivering, and evaluating learning experiences that promote effective and dramatic improvements in student achievement.” The key to the initiative is enabling “pedagogical and logistical flexibility so that students have more choice in their learning opportunities, including when, where, and what they want to learn.”

I am currently working on a project that is moving towards the goal of flexible learning, however, there are some major challenges with implementing such a learning strategy. Here are just some of those challenges that I have faced over the last few months:

  • Redesigning courses to reflect a flexible learning approach. It is about creating a complete network of paths that learners can take to ensure a successful learning experience. To do this successfully, you need to brainstorm numerous scenarios and use tools such as mindmaps.
  • Working with instructors to promote a world of learning outside their classroom. Flexible learning is about giving learners the opportunity to decide what they want to learn, when they want to learn, and where they want to learn. This is an pedagogical mindshift for many instructors who are fearful about losing control of the “learning experiences” they create in the classroom.
  • Find ways to motivate learners that flexible learning is beneficial to them. Perhaps this is the most surprising challenge, but some learners only see learning experiences as classroom based. Many are unmotivated about or fearful of learning outside the traditional classroom setting. For me, it is about giving these learners the skills to be able to learn outside of the classroom – it is not just promoting the idea of choice in learning.

Gamification and Super User Training

28 Jun

In recent weeks I’ve been developing a lesson plan for Super User training on a communication device called Vocera.

These Super Users will not only deliver training to front line staff in the future, but they will be also providing support to staff on the floor. Many of these Super Users have limited or no experience of Vocera, so naturally feel nervous about becoming Super Users.

As such, the challenge to me has been to design a training session that makes Super Users confident experts on Vocera in under two hours.

To achieve this, I didn’t want to just dump information. An information overload on what the device could do, would be too much in a one-off two-hour training session. And I didn’t want to rely on a ton of resources that the Super Users may never read or use. Instead I wanted to create a training session that would be structured but allow learners to develop their expertise in a multi-levelled manner. A bit like a computer game.

“Gamification” in relation to education has become quite a buzzword in recent years. While I really like the idea of creating an immersive gaming environment for learners to lose themselves in, the reality is I don’t have the time or resources to develop such an environment. Instead, I think where “gamification” can be most useful, is in applying the concepts of gaming to develop skills and competencies in the classroom.

This is best explained in an excellent blog post by Jo Cook. In the post, Jo refers to a presentation by Julie Dirksen about how traditional classes are “like constantly cycling uphill with more and more new things to learn.” Julie instead suggests structuring classes so they are more like a game, where they “start off easy then add more information, speed up the process and so on to the end challenge.”

In terms of introducing concepts of gaming, this approach seems more achievable for the instructional designer. And arguably, the training session should be more beneficial for the learner, especially when they are tasked to become experts.

I’ll find out in the coming weeks …

Storyboarding and Structure – Key for Video Creation

23 Apr

Recently I’ve been reading Lee LeFever’s excellent The Art of Explanation. I’ve always been an admirer of Lee’s Common Craft videos and his book superbly explains the process of how Common Craft videos are made.

For me, perhaps the most interesting aspect of Common Craft’s video making process is the storyboarding. Lee explains that there is a common story arc based on three basic elements:

1. A character wants or needs something.
2. He or she despairs without it, and must overcome a hurdle to get it.
3. He or she is eventually successful.

This framework for storytelling mirrors the structure I try to follow when storyboarding my own Common Craft type videos.

Over the last year or so, I’ve been creating so-called “John and George” videos.

JGLogo

John is your typical worker, frustrated with the challenges of modern-day work and new technology. George is John’s co-worker, who is always around to help (think on-the-job, informal learning).

In a typical video, John finds himself with a problem and seeks George’s advice.

For example:

Advice

Advice2

The video always ends with a successful outcome. For example:

Conclusion

So far, I’ve created eight John and George videos and the feedback has been positive.

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.