Friday, July 24, 2015

Mini-Lessons – How to Begin

The learner needs to understand and grasp the subject, and to satisfy themselves or others that they know the intention of the lesson – and, in the case of mini-lessons, achieve all this really quickly. 
The first thing to determine is the outcome – ask yourself, What do I want the learner to learn?
  • Just one outcome is ideal.
  • With mini-lessons, refinement is the key.  Drill to the essential essence of your defined outcome – finding the ‘kernel’ of the piece of knowledge is one way to express this focus.
  • This is the most important, and sometimes the most difficult, aspect of developing the mini-lesson.  However, without this refinement it is difficult to develop clear steps to provide easy and fast learning.
Once the expected outcome is clear, then either the knowledge or the learning activities to achieve this can be tackled. 
  • Essentially, the knowledge gives the learner the information to provide the answer to the expected outcome. 
  • Learning activity provides the practice or revision of that knowledge.
This approach may seem back to front.  But it works!  Starting with the end, or the outcome, and knowing your goal means you can more easily construct the mini-lesson to achieve that goal.

About the Author:
Anne Mills
Director/Developer, Learning Solutions


Anne is a graphic designer whose skills have enabled her to produce appealing learning objects and engaging online learning experiences. Through her collaboration with Caryl Oliver, and Raptivity, she has created a range of learning and training courses for clients as small as a hospitality college in India to industry giants like the Linfox Group in Australia.

Currently Anne is contracted to Achievement for All in the UK producing material that supports the charity in its work with vulnerable children. With its reach into 2000 schools, the task to transform their main programme from face-to-face training of school personnel to predominantly online learning is a challenge for them as well as for Anne.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The (Not So) Curious case of Corporate eLearning

So you head the Learning and Development function at your organization. Or wait, maybe you are involved in Talent Management. Whatever your role be out of these, I am sure what takes up most (or at least half) of your time is, finding out ways and means to train your employees on existing and sometimes new processes, policies or technologies. You come up with the fanciest of ideas but all of it generally boils down to resource constraints, both human and financial or some cliched’ in-person, classroom kind of training sessions (Trust me; your employees are tired of them).
You are constantly thinking about tackling this issue. Ever considered moving to online learning? There are multiple benefits that online can offer over traditional corporate learning media:

Self Paced - Your employees would really appreciate if they can take a course at their own pace. Not everybody is the same when it comes to the ability of grasping new stuff. Talking of a personal example here, I am comparatively slower at understanding new tools than one of my peers at work. It’s always easier not to be with him in the same class when taking a course/training together. If my learning media is self paced, I can decide when to take up a particular module, or an assessment or when to undergo certification. I don’t have to rush up or drag through my learning process.


Reduced Training Costs – Studies show that online trainings are generally more cost effective than the traditional training media. You save on the costs of hiring and involving a trainer/facilitator time and over again. Plus, operational costs like printing and travel go down drastically. Of course, there are costs involved in creating an eLearning course and maintaining the eLearning setup but they are miniscule compared to the traditional approaches. Some online learning platforms like Udemy, Lynda and Coursera even offer ready to use courses (many of them for free). Go ahead and evaluate some of them.


Easier Access and Quicker Deployment of Updates - Deploying updates is super fast when it comes to online learning. I have an example from my own workplace. When our Human Resources (HR) department launched their sexual harassment policy (I am talking of about three years back), they had classroom sessions for all employees in batches, where they informed everyone about the policy and the implications it would have. It took about three months for all employees to attend the session and some employees still missed it because they were busy, unavailable, or travelling. Recently, the same policy was updated with some additional clauses. With an online portal now in place, this time the HR team created a short course on Sexual Harassment and also added an assessment at the end of it. The course was uploaded on the company LMS and was made mandatory. All of us took the course when we could and the assessment ensured that we understood and recalled all significant implications. Easier and smarter! Isn’t it? No dependencies, No hassles, and yet everything was available at our fingertips (Literally).  


Simplified Logistics - Physical training sessions generally lead to complicated logistics. Sometimes, organizing multiple training sessions can be the biggest roadblock in the efficiency of a training program. With online trainings, there are no such logistics involved. Training material can just be distributed in a click and even resources do not need to travel.  Double benefit you see!


Improved Feedback - Collecting feedback in physical training sessions is always cumbersome. And it is difficult to find out if you have missed someone. Online training environments allow you to gather statistics about employee performance via assessments, quizzes and tests which are logged in to the LMS. Not only assessments and quizzes, with xAPI tracing, now you can also find out which sections of trainings are being skipped or are being focused on by employees. It can help you re-design trainings effectively. Employees also get a fair idea of their performance and generally strive to improve it.


Increased Effectiveness - A nine-year survey of the research literature in training published by Fletcher and Tobias in ‘Training and Retraining’, commissioned by the American Psychological Society, and published in 2000, concluded that: ‘Learners learn more using computer-based instruction than they do with conventional ways of teaching, as measured by higher post-treatment test scores.’ Specific studies from Fletcher (1999), Kulik (1994), Willett, Yamashita & Anderson (1983) all confirm that learners learn more using computer-based instruction than they do through traditional classroom methods. Online learning can often prove to be more effective than traditional learning because of its individualized nature. Also, a simple fact that rather than being one of the twenty others sitting through the training and sharing a single conference room, you have direct access to your instructor via a single click; can be a great advantage. Online settings can also help reduce social inhibitions that some employees suffer from. Factors like immediate feedback and self paced learning can also contribute to increased effectiveness. 

All these benefits do not rule out the fact that any in-person approach would always be more personal and sometimes even more effective than online. The idea is not to disregard one approach over the other, the point is that we need to focus on the need of the hour and move in a direction that is beneficial for organizations as well as employees. By recognizing the benefits and value of online learning, you are not only going to help your organization grow, you will also support your most important asset – your employees, by giving them what they need and that too, whenever they need.


Brace yourself and get going! Learning is a never ending process.

References:

Thursday, July 9, 2015

‘Art of Storyboarding’ Webinar – Highlights

Team Raptivity recently hosted a successful webinar on ‘The Art of Storyboarding’ by Desiree Pinder - Executive Director/Founder of Artisan E-Learning. Desiree answered some fundamental questions on storyboarding, through this webinar, such as: what is a storyboard, why create one, and how to build and show content in a storyboard.

Here are some key takeaways from the session:

·         Storyboard is crucial when working with others to create an eLearning course e.g. Subject Matter Experts (SME), Graphic Designers, or programmers. 
·         Storyboarding saves time and money as it’s easier to make early changes to a storyboard rather than to the actual course.
·         A high level storyboard gives the overall vision of the course to your team.
·         Microsoft Word is the easiest but least visual tool to create a storyboard. Use it when you are mostly going to include text in your storyboard. Use Microsoft PowerPoint if you want your storyboard to be visual.
·         Create a storyboard directly in an eLearning/authoring tool for short courses and technical topics that need animations. But do it only if you know the tool very well and are the SME.
·         The most important aspect of storyboarding is what goes in the storyboard, i.e. page numbers, text, audio, video, graphics/media, and programming instructions.
·         Automating common functions can be a time-saver e.g. setting up macros and using the AutoCorrect option from Word.
·         Use style guides for standardizing language, formatting, style, and design of your storyboard as well the course. Here is one such style guide for your reference.
·         Set up a proofing process and always have someone else proofread your storyboard.
·         Most importantly, keep your storyboard succinct and it must map to what your learners are supposed to be learning or doing after the course.

Here is a sample storyboard template shared by Desiree.   

Did you miss the webinar? No worries! You can watch the webinar recording here and have a look at the webinar presentation here.

Happy storyboarding!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

What an Instructional Designer can Learn from a Parent?

Parents are known as instructors. Isn’t it?  They keep instructing kids about good and bad habits, things to do and not to do, pros and cons of something - the list is endless. I too am a parent of a six year old beautiful daughter - Pari. Just like most of the parents, I too keep instructing her on something or the other, all the time. But, over time, I have realized that she learns from something which I had never thought of – bed time stories. Yes! We all have heard these stories from our parents. Let me tell you an interesting incident which happened few weeks back.

Pari loved to eat a particular cookie (till the time of the incident) which is not supposed to be very good for children’s health. She used to finish a complete packet almost every day. I constantly used to tell her not to eat so many of them. But, she never listened. One night when it was time for her bed time story, I told her a very thoughtful one. You want to hear it too? Here it goes…

Once there was a cute little boy who was seven years old. He had many friends and he loved to play with them. He also loved the same cookies as Pari did. He used to have 10 to 12 of them daily. One day while playing, suddenly his stomach started hurting and he couldn’t play at all. He felt sick. His mother rushed him to the doctor. The doctor asked, “What did you eat today?” He said, “I had a pack  of my favourite cookies”. The doctor said that having so many cookies had caused this problem. He injected the boy, asked him to take rest, and instructed no play for one week. The boy realized that those cookies were not so good for his health. The cookies even led him to stop going out to play with his friends. He stopped eating them.

That was the end of the story and we slept. Next day morning, when Pari was having her morning cuppa of milk, I served her the cookies assuming she would demand for them like every day. To my delight, she asked “Mom, don’t we have any other cookies? I don’t like these.” I know you too are smiling, just like I was at that moment. The story had done its job even without me telling her anything.

That’s the skill every instructional designer can learn from parents - converting a boring instructional content piece into a story by:
  1. Having characters which learner can easily relate to
  2. Including events or problems, actions, consequences, climax and resolution
  3. Dramatizing the story to make it interesting
  4. Connecting it with elements or objectives which matter to the learner
  5. Crafting  the end of the story carefully with a conclusion but without too many obvious instructions
The learner would then find the content engaging, motivating and above all, would never forget it

Happy Storytelling :)