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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.

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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

Death by Quick Reference Card (and all his friends)

19 Oct

At the moment I’m dying under the weight of quick reference cards. Next week I’m running a series of MS Office 2010 “What’s New” training sessions and have a number of quick reference cards that will be handed out. By “a number” I mean this amount:

I don’t have a problem with quick reference cards per se, however, every time I print out a batch of them I wonder if there is a better way.

Even at a rudimentary level, the creation of quick reference cards takes up a significant amount of time. From the design process to printing and distribution, the process of getting a quick reference card in the hands of a learner seems exorbitant.

So why do we put so much effort into creating quick reference cards? The answer I commonly get is because “learners want something physical that they can take away with them after training has finished.” A quick reference card meets this need, but is this need necessarily true?

My answer to this question is may be not. Perhaps what learners need is an assurance that relevant resources will be available to them after training has finished. As instructional designers we are all aware of the problem of learner retention or recall, but perhaps we should also be aware that learners are worried about this problem as well.

Handing learners a quick reference card helps ease their concerns. A card acts as something that will either jog their memory or help fill in a gap about a section of the training they snoozed through.

So what about the “physical” part of needing a quick reference card? Well, in an increasingly “virtual world,” the need for something physical is diminishing. Even so, I think it is important to show learners where they can get help in the virtual world. That means incorporating a post-training element into training. For too long we have treated training as a one-time, one-stop-shop experience. It shouldn’t be, and we shouldn’t just hand out quick reference cards, wave the learners good-bye and wish them good-luck.

I’m dying under the weight of quick reference cards, perhaps there is a different/better way.

Out with the New: The return to the “old media”

7 Sep

I was really fascinated to read Clive Shepherd’s blog post on “Why video trumps e-learning” as it touched upon what I’ve been doing recently, returning to the “old media” of comic strips.

In the blog post, Clive makes a very convincing argument on how video is “more engaging, more versatile and less impersonal” than e-learning, pointing out that “we’ll see an even greater use of video in the workplace.” Clive adds that while “there are some niches where e-learning is irreplaceable,” he won’t be unhappy “to see other media come alongside.”

As Clive concludes, the increasing use of video is “just another turn of the circle” in the history of corporate training (video as a medium for training came to prominence in the 1980s/1990s, however, it must be noted that these days it is significantly easier to create training videos). For me, driving this increased use of video is the desire of learners to have quick and easy access to information. This desire is shaping my instructional design decisions.

For example, I was recently tasked with turning some complex call flow diagrams of a communication system into training material. After talking with the staff using the communication system, I found out that they hardly use our intranet to find out information (as one staff member said “the intranet involves too many clicks”). So instead of creating an e-learning module that would never be viewed, I started to think about creating training material that would be quick to find and easy to review.

Oddly, my thoughts on the design of the original e-learning module soon evolved into something more old media, comic strips. I had been inspired by Cathy Moore’s elearning branching example, and was thinking about using a similar model. However, instead of using e-learning, I decided to reject the new media and go old school – a printed comic strip.

The feedback largely has been positive. Staff can quickly grab the printed comic strip and find out the information that they need to know. For me, the process has made me rethink creating training material in the twenty-first century. Perhaps it’s time to return to the old media.

Mooting Moodle for All

28 Aug

Last week I had a really interesting meeting about creating a course in Moodle. Most of the material that I create, whether it be quick reference cards or videos, ends up on the organization’s intranet site, so using Moodle is new to me.

Perhaps the most striking thing about Moodle is how user-friendly setting-up a course seems to be. Navigating around is a breeze, while uploading files is simple. The only real stumbling block for me is the creation of quizzes. The design for this feature seems a little clunky and difficult to follow. However, with some trial and error I’m sure it will begin to make more sense.

Talking about trial and error, I’m beginning to storyboard the course that I will end up on Moodle. Hopefully in the next few weeks I’ll be able to share some tips and tricks about my experience with using Moodle. In the meantime, I’ll definitely moot Moodle for all.

How do you turn a flow diagram into something more meaningful?

17 Aug

I’m working on a really fascinating mobile communication project at the moment, however, I have a training problem. Although there is plenty of pre-existing training material, perhaps the most important document is an unhelpful flow diagram.

Flow diagrams are great for business analysis who need to understand business processes or networks. But for the average hospital worker on the floor of a busy ward, a flow diagram can be more of a hinderance than a help.

So, as an instructional designer, how do you turn a flow diagram into something more meaningful?

I’m grappling with this question right now with approximately 3 weeks until the project goes live. My initial thoughts are these:

  • It has to be on one page
  • It has to be easy to understand
  • It has to capture a sense of flow
  • It has to be visually appealing.

If anyone has any great ideas or examples, please leave a comment.