Category Archives: Instructional Design

Rapid ID and Rapid Dev? Yes! But…

Thanks (yet again) to Twitter, I came across a post by Karen from Langevin Learning Services (@karencar_ID) who shared an offering from the folks at Bottom Line Performance in Indianapolis (@BLPIndy). The substance of this post was whether or not Rapid Design and Rapid Development were possible. BLP’s inspiration was another entry from the widely read Rapid e-Learning Blog.

My immediate reaction was, “Yes, but, there are some caveats.”

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See the wood for the SMEs

A great pair of entries from Ryan Tracey (@ryantracey) on the nature of the SME. This discussion leads us into the territory of “Unconscious Competence” as pioneered by Gordon Training International. Thanks to Ryan for sharing these gems.

E-Learning Provocateur

In my previous blog post, Everyone is an SME, I argued that all the employees in your organisation have knowledge and skills to share, because everyone is an SME in something.

Sometimes this “something” is obvious because it’s a part of their job. For example, Sam the superannuation administrator is obviously an SME in unit switching, because he processes dozens of unit switches every day.

But sometimes the something isn’t so obvious, because we’re either too blind to see it, or – Heaven forbid – our colleagues have lives outside of the workplace.

Martha the tea lady

Consider Martha, the tea lady. Obviously she’s an SME in the dispensation of hot beverages. That’s her job.

But dig a little deeper and you’ll discover that she’s also an SME in customer service and relationship management. That’s her job, too.

Oh, and she speaks fluent Polish and Russian.

Gavin the IT grad

May I also introduce you to…

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StoryboardTrek – the Search for the Sweet Spot

I originally was going to make a comparison between Storyboards and educational quicksand, but having seen reactions to similar polemics, I figured I needed to adjust my stance somewhat.

The concept of planning out a highly interactive learning asset has its roots in film-making and – in principle – is a good idea. After all, movies are expensive enough to make without wasting time and film on shots that will end up on the cutting room floor. But the storyboarding process for media is pretty well understood and (I think?) follows some generally accepted conventions so you can(I think?) go from one production to another and make sense of what’s going on.

That hasn’t really been my experience with storyboarding for interactive learning assets. In fact, it’s anything but. Read the rest of this entry

Educational Ennui

With my wife tackling her B.Ed. (and hoping to transfer to my alma mater for Grad School) and one of my colleagues also starting the MA program I did, I’ve been tripping down educational memory lane of late.

That came to a head a little while ago as I participated in a FB message exchange with some of my former classmates as we responded to a query from one of our number about an instructional design challenge.  My friend Peter summed it up well:

As an aside, you have no idea how much I miss this kind of dialogue with you guys. This thread made my day.

With that, I got a pang of sadness.  Read the rest of this entry

My experience with Snapguide: Thoughts, implications, and a wishlist

It was one of those “Just in Time” moments for learning. I had been sharing some photos of a trip into Toronto through Instagr.am and cross-posting them to Facebook. A grad school classmate asked me how I achieved the effects. After listing the tools I used, she jokingly asked when I’d have the e-learning course ready for her to teach her how to do it all. Undaunted, I figured this was a good opportunity to try out Snapguide. Read the rest of this entry

3 Aspects of Deep Learning …

3 Aspects of Deep Learning ….

I love what John E. Smith (@StratLearner) has to say about this topic.  It’s closely related to a previously-mentioned post of mine that’s still in the works.  As L&D professionals, we need to be aiming for “deep learning” but it seems that our efforts often wind up only getting to a more superficial level; an issue that speaks more to overall implementation and adoption issues, rather than a specific ID fault.

What’s most telling for me is the opening quote. Read it, and you’ll see why.

Instructional Designer, Project Manager, or Both?

One of the topics of debate in my workplace is the concept of having the instructional designer also serve as the project manager for their own projects.  The rationale is that they are intimately involved in the project from design through implementation and are conveying information over to any project-level resources and establishing the deliverables.

This proposal raises some interesting issues.; PMs are normally positions of some level of authority and can request and assign resources, etc. So, if the PM did not have the authority PMs are also experts in the management and administration of projects, and all the mysterious things that go into them.  They are also not necessarily resources for the project, but they have a degree of responsibility to the project sponsor and the customer for the outcomes.

I’m going to try not to salt the waters too much, but I wonder what people think.  If you are an ID are you also your own project manager?

e-Learning Project Autopsies – What Quincy M.E. can teach us about e-Learning Projects

Photo credit: http://sharetv.org/shows/quincy_meAfter five straight days dissecting and evaluating a select group of e-learning projects developed by external vendors, I felt a little bit like I was playing Quincy, M.E.  That’s honestly what the last week has felt like, because it was long, invasive, messy, and clinical. Yes, I know I’m dating myself somewhat, but CSI didn’t really work as a comparison because there’s so much “gee whiz” science involved there. Quincy, on the other hand, relied on instinct, experience, intuition, and good, old-fashioned detective work.

I’ll preface my comments by saying that this is not an indictment of the process or the players involved, rather, it’s a reflective summary of some things I wanted to share about how these kinds of projects can work more effectively down the road.

Every so often, we have to go outside the organization to get some development work done, and we’re always asked to do some kind of review.  Well, with three particularly challenging projects, our review turned into a real post-mortem, and my old TV memories from the formative years came to mind.

In no particular order, here are the things that I learned from this process, thanks to ol’ Quince.

1. If we’re doing an autopsy we have more questions than answers.

If you’re finding that the review process is turning into an autopsy, you’ve likely missed a few key indicators on “cause of death” of your project. To my way of thinking, there’s no such thing as “death from natural causes” on an e-learning project.  What is surprising is that “foul play” could be a contributor. What’s more likely in many cases is a bit of a blanket crime I’ll call “educational malpractice” The line between that and “foul play” is that there’s usually no malice in “malpractice”.

What does this mean for the L&D professional?  You really need to have the proverbial ducks in a row when embarking on a project. While just as important for in-house efforts, you’d better make sure you have a very clear vision communicated to your external developer and you need to know what the project plan is actually going to look like.  In Air Force terms, we like to avoid trying to fly the airplane while it’s still being built.  For corporate folks, it may mean having to answer some very uncomfortable questions about the project, its aims, and the amount of money thrown at it…especially if you wind up either pulling the plug or getting something that doesn’t work for you, the learners, and the organization.  As Nick Laycock recently pointed out (rightly), a post-mortem is likely a self-fulfilling prophecy and has a negative connotation.

2. Simple detective work is never easy

Quincy was portrayed as someone who relied as much on deductive reasoning as he did on his microscope and scalpel. More importantly, he also spent time outside the lab asking questions and putting a big picture together.

You will likely spend a lot of time checking and re-checking decisions and outcomes. As much as you’ll rely on the “physical” evidence (I guess we can include email trails there).  Don’t be pushed into completing findings by a certain date if you don’t have all the facts.  In short, don’t give up on a review (or fail to conduct one) because there’s always something to learn.

On a more positive note, humans are notorious for failing to acknowledge what they have done correctly (with the exception of those possessing an overabundance of hubris), so why not take a look at the things that went well and strive to repeat them?

3. Some wounds are self-inflicted

Try as some might to make a murder look like a suicide, there are some tell-tale signs that a good Examiner can always determine (not all of  them physical).

The L&D professional has to rely on their instincts as well as the evidence, and they have to look at a lot of contributing factors in the project; everything from project methodology, through communications, and even a critical evaluation of their own efforts. For all you know, a decision made at your end that seemed innocuous at the time might have been the proverbial butterfly that triggered the hurricane later.  Other things that get in the way are repeated time and again from project management professionals: lack of sponsorship, “scope creep”, lack of flexibility, poor risk assessment, poor communications, and so on. I have been witness to (and occasionally a contributor to) some of the previous issues on projects.

4. Not all wounds are fatal

One of Quincy’s skills was his ability to sort through multiple traumas and figure out which one was fatal. This distinction was critical when more than one wound presented itself.

Similarly, I cannot think of a project that has been error-free. In fact, there are times when I think Murphy was a project manager. Errors, on their own, aren’t necessarily bad things.  They become bad when they are covered up, unrecognized, or dismissed. So, what do we do? First, let’s acknowledge that errors happen. A well-run project will probably have some Risk Analysis done in the planning stage and can serve as a guide for dealing with contingencies. Next, if errors happen, don’t hide them.  Acknowledge them. Be transparent.  Examine them and take a good look at the potential impact, and adjust as needed.  Embrace them as chances to learn.  Radical?  Sure it is!  But think about the gains received through honesty versus the costs of deceit? I know I’d have greater respect for a vendor who openly acknowledges and error AND has a plan to address it, as opposed to the one who has been providing sunshine & roses updates when they really don’t reflect what’s going on in the background.

5. Build a library and share findings

Can you imagine if every piece of evidence gathered for a case had to stand on its own with no linkage to similar happenings, or other revelations?  Unthinkable in police work or medicine, but seems to be a fact of life for organizations who have multiple projects on the go.

Part of your project plan should include a trek through your own archive of projects, findings, and lessons learned.  By starting out with this “let’s repeat success” mindset, you’re more likely to work out a stronger plan and set of goals than you would if you ignored the potential learning from previous projects. With the ubiquitous nature of social media technologies and the growth of Personal Learning and Personal Performance networks (thanks Mark Britz) we can pose questions, share lessons learned, and collectively improve our learning projects from concept through implementation.

Besides…we’re L&D professionals.  It’s in our nature to learn.  We spend a lot of time and energy promoting learning’s virtues but every so often (and I know I’m not immune to this) we’re blinded to our own need to acknowledge certain lessons.  To borrow and re-purpose a phrase, “Educator, teach thyself“.

Nice Conflict: Critical skills for L&D (Part 1)

Through following Angela Maiers, I happened to see the most recent stream of the weekly #LeadershipChat, and the topic was drawn from the book “Have a Nice Conflict“,

As Lisa Petrilli notes in her summary, rather than being a source of frustration and loss to business, conflict has the potential to be a spark for change, innovation, new relationships, and shared understanding. Of course, this does require a significant change in mindset on both sides of the communication equation.

We’re all aware of conflict and it’s potential for damage to business. In fact, a recent stat thrown out in the chat was that conflict cost the US economy an estimated $395Bn per year (based on an average of 2.8 hours per week in some state of conflict. While some may argue that’s just the cost of doing business, big numbers like that are somewhat hard to ignore).

So what does this all mean for L&D professionals?

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iBooks2/iBook Author Update

It’s nice to know that even some of the tech giants can listen to post-launch reaction and make some adjustments on the fly.

Apple received some pretty scathing commentary from a lot of folks with regard to their seemingly restrictive EULA, namely the extortionate rather steep cut of each sold offering (30%), an apparent loss of author copyright, and the distribution limitation of any iBA output to the iTunes Store.  I even offered a few thoughts on the matter.

However, according to Mashable, there’s been a change afoot in the EULA.

In a nutshell, Apple has clarified the restrictions on distribution such that the only place you will find a .ibooks file is through iTunes.  Other output formats can be distributed elsewhere.  Oh yeah, and you don’t give up any of your rights as the author/creator.

It’s a start.  The still need to sort out their end/output file size and the cost of doing business with Apple, but I’m sure some folks are starting to breathe easier.