Monday, April 14, 2014

More Than Just “Click Forward”

The American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) is sponsoring another webinar that, on its face, holds a lot of promise. This Thursday – April 17 – ASTD, in conjunction with UL Workplace Health and Safety, is hosting More Than Just "Click Next": Creating Innovative and Interactive E-Learning. It’s description seems hopeful.

Rapid e-learning development tools changed all this. Now a single instructional designer can take on a project from start to finish. While these tools reduce costs and trim timelines, it can sometimes come at a cost to the final product. Using templates instead of graphic designers can lead to e-learning that looks generic or ugly. Using pre-rendered interactions instead of developers can lead to a habit of forcing the content into a handful of stock interactions rather than fitting the interaction to the content.

When the tools aren’t pushed beyond the basics of what they can do, we often end up with the dull “Click Next” e-learning that people dread taking. So does this mean that rapid e-learning tools can’t create memorable learning experiences? Not at all. It just means we need to use these tools differently for them to be effective.

We’ve all experienced this, but the solutions are off times difficult to find. There are various reasons for our inability to rise above the hum drum including development software limitations, developer limitations, time limitations, and client resistance to breaking from the mold.

Yes, just as there are many who still believe instructor led training involves the teacher lecturing to the classroom, so many believe your web-based training needs to be 50 minutes of page-turning lecture followed by 10 assessment questions to validate that the student has learned something.

So I’ll be interested to see what this presentation shows us and what development tools the presenters will be talking about. For those interested, ASTD says the presentation will:

  • Describe what makes an e-learning experience engaging and interactive in the first place.
  • Present new ways to design innovative learning experiences with e-learning tools.
  • Show which e-learning features you should (and shouldn’t) use to increase interactivity.
  • Discuss when e-learning isn’t the right tool for the job.

The last bullet is the most intriguing to me, and with that I leave you with this suggested video to watch: The Big Mistake in Elearning.

Monday, March 24, 2014

SharePoint and Performance Support

ASTD is offering an interesting one-hour webinar, titled Using SharePoint to Support Training, on how to leverage SharePoint to support formal training. The registration site describes it thus:

In a business environment where training professionals are asked to do more with less, leveraging an option like SharePoint can be an effective way to minimize costs while providing the technology to facilitate engaging learning experiences. In this session, we’ll discuss some examples of using SharePoint to support training and development in organizations.

Learn how SharePoint can be used for:

  • employee onboarding/orientation programs
  • training and development project management
  • community management and blogging
  • knowledge management/employee resource center
  • managing an action learning curriculum

Join Anne Scott and Mark Britz as they walk you through some practical examples based on business problems, solutions, results, limitations, workarounds, and lessons learned. 

I plan to attend this webinar because it may prove useful for our my group, which is widely distributed geographically. It might provide some guidance on how to encourage ongoing learning and sharing of knowledge.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Importance of Archiving

So I had a couple of incidents occur to me recently that reinforced to me the importance of implementing and practicing archiving practices in this digital age. Each was a mystery in that it involved a bit of sleuthing, nothing that rose to the level of Sherlock Holmes, but the smaller types of mysteries that impact us all in some manner, shape, and form (like where did I leave my car keys) in the information-rich world we now live in.

I call the first mystery, The Case of the Absent-minded Artist and the second is The Case of the Misplaced Log-in. I will describe each in a moment and how they pertain to information archiving, but first, a little background on archiving itself.

  My go-to source for information on archiving is the Library of Congress’ Digital Preservation group, which is a clearing house for information on archiving digital records. The Library supports National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA) that is developing standards for digital preservation. The table to the right is from the NDSA’s The NDSA Levels of Digital Preservation: An Explanation and Uses. The element I want to talk to is the Level 1 cell for the first row, Storage and Geographic Location.

first-boxThis recommendation is straightforward; maintain at least two copies of all important digital records on separate devices. Basically, this recommendation harkens back to the old adage, Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. If you store all of your information in one location, say your computer’s hard drive then you are running the real risk of losing it all if that hard drive fails. Save it to some external drive, or, in the case of the second point in the chart, if the data is on external storage device then you should save it to a second storage site, such as your hard drive or the external drive that you dedicate to archiving. This is a process I have been trying to make a habit of, but I’ve been getting there in fits and bounds.

So back to my mysteries…

In The Case of the Absent-minded Artist, I was the instructional designer for a media-rich online course. During the initial courseware review, the clients asked that two images be replaced. At the time I was extremely busy so, rather than select the images myself which is my wont, I asked the artist, whom I trusted implicitly, to make the selections for me. And fine selections they were; the clients were pleased with the selections and production continued forward. About a month later, the client asked to know the sources of the images, including the source image’s file name, so that they could validate that they could be used in their courseware.

Unfortunately, the artist was on vacation and was unavailable to ask for the information. But was i deterred, no sir. I knew we store all of our production files on a secure external server that we all have access to, and so I went there to look for them. That’s when I discovered that in the rush to make deadlines on the various projects the artist was assigned to, the source images were never uploaded there. They must have slipped the artist’s mind. All ended well, though, because the client followed up their original request with a new note saying it was unnecessary to have the detailed information after all. And when the artist came back from vacation the pictures were placed up on our server so that I could update the storyboards with the information.

My second mystery was one of a self-inflicted issue. The Case of the Misplaced Log-in involved my ability to access the internet while on the road using my personal internet provider. In this day and age of increased number and security protocols for accessing various web-sites it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep them all without writing them down. I know, IT security recommends against writing down passwords, but who can keep them all in memory for easy retrieval? Which is what I started doing with the passwords that I don’t use regularly. Over the course of a number of years I have tried a number of ways to manage my passwords, unfortunately, like a butterfly, I would flit from one solution to another and as a result my passwords are scattered over several applications and a couple of devices.

So, when I was on travel I was staying in a hotel that did not provide free Internet access, but it did offer an option for ATT customers to log-in using their personal ATT login information. It was either that or pay the Hotel for access, and being a good employee I wanted to save my company a little bit of money. I know it was not much, but as my mama would say “every little bit helps.” I don’t use this log-in very often, in fact I have probably only used it three times in the past 12 months so its not committed to memory. In fact, the first time I used it I had to call my wife to get the ATT log-in information.

Sherlock_Holmes Recognizing that I wouldn’t be using it frequently I wrote it down, but when the incident I am writing about occurred I became aware that I could not remember where I wrote it down. I first searched the normal locations on my laptop to no avail. Perhaps, if I had saved it in more than one location I might have found it sooner. I had a rough idea of what the login was and I spent several minutes typing in various permutations before I finally remembered where I had stored it. Once I remembered its storage location it was a matter of a few seconds and I was on the internet checking my email and completing my time card.

Now you might say i only a deficit of a few minutes between when I set out to access the Internet and when I actually was on the Information Highway, but those few minutes can add up. And if you were to multiply that by the uncounted number of times this occurs in a corporation because appropriate archiving practices are not applied and productivity is lost while searching for the information needed to perform a particular task then the lost time becomes massive.

We need to commit ourselves to engaging in sound archiving practices so we don’t all have to be a Sherlock Holmes in trying to find the information we need to do our jobs.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Conference Call Hell

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting piece on Surviving a Conference Call that covers the bad habits anyone who has attended a conference call has exhibited from time to time and suggests means to escape them. Sue Shellenbarger, the author, recommends the following to improve the productivity of these meetings.

  • PJ-BT474A_WORKF_G_20140225234514[1]Establish a clear and explicit set of goals and agenda for the meeting. “’You need to script them more tightly’ to keep people’s attention from wandering, says Daniel Mittleman, an associate professor in computing and digital media at DePaul University.”
  • Build relationships. When attendees introduce themselves, have them explain their roles and what they want out of the meeting.
  • Conference leaders should prepare in advance questions to ask participants and use a form to record responses.
  • Conference leaders should make sure everyone is contributing and have not “checked out” by posing questions, especially to those people who are not actively participating.
  • A volunteer/moderator can be charged with keeping people on-topic and sticking to time limits.

The author also speaks about  the future of video conferencing and the challenges associated with it. And before leaving, if you go and read the actual Wall Street Journal article, here’s the YouTube video it references. Enjoy.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Post-training Blues

The eLearning Guild posted a tremendous article by Marc Rosenberg about the value of performance support after a training event. His point is neatly summed up by thisparagraph.

Training no longer works in isolation. The transition from classroom (or an online experience) to the workplace must be seamless. This adds design decisions that transcend instruction. What will learners do after training? How will their new knowledge and skill be supported on the job? No training program should be developed without also answering questions like these.

His point is that for training to work it must be “reinforced and supported in the workplace.” This support he says can take the form of coaching, knowledge bases, and actual redesign of either work to align with “the processes and practices taught in training” or the training to align with how work is actually performed.

Marc My Words: The Training to Competence Myth

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Learning 2013: Breakout Session 581: Curation in Collaborative Learning

The first session of the 2nd day of Learning 2013 focused on curating learning content to ensure that it was current and what was needed at the time of need. The discussion centered around what “curation” meant in today’s social world. The question arose whether curation is the same as knowledge management and whether both are the same as learning. It was suggested that curation is a native brain function.

We then discussed the basic tasks involved in curation and we determined that it was sequentially:

  1. Collection
  2. Saving/Bookmarking
  3. Add content
  4. Sharing

The presenters – Allison Anderson and Armando Torres of Intel – presented a couple of tools used for curation in collaborative learning:

Both are social bookmarking sites with a graphical interface, which led me to wonder what is the usage of Delicious and its text based format? works as follows: once you log-in it prompts you to create a category and then makes recommendations for you based on key words. You can use the “scoop it!” button next to the suggestion to add it to your collection. You can also use a bookmarklet placed on your bookmark bar to capture items for


Pinterest works as follows, enter a searh – in this example “epub” and the results are shown in picture format.:


Compared to Delicious’ text based interface which is text based and relies on users to enter descriptive text of the link, which, as shown below, seems to rarely occur.


Saturday, November 09, 2013

Learning 2013: Breakout Session 371: Come Joinng the Crowd! Using Crowdsourcing to Design Learning Activities

This was one of the sessions hosted by a cadre from the 30 Under 30 Program. The way to crowd source to build a learning solution is a three-step process.

  1. Brainstorm the items requiring performance support of some fashion.
  2. Ask questions about what issues might arise or be encountered.
  3. Provide answers to those questions.
Typically, the process is done virtually over the course of days or weeks. The presenters recommended the use of a cloud application such as Hackpad or Google Docs in which people can view real time edits can return at other times for asynchronous edits.

Learning 2013 - Breakout Session 274 - Is Bite Size the Right Size? Smaller Learning, a Closer Look

This session focused on how to respond  to corporate pressure to reduce training times. The presenters -Camille Price, of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and Cary Harlow, of Hewlett Packard - said the conversation should not just be about compressing training, but challenging the assumption that compression is possible at all.

Once participant in the audience suggested that one way to reduce training time is to shift to prework, but in my own mind the question arises as to whether the company will expect the student to do the prework on his or her own time rather than on corporate time since the push to compress training time is the predicated on the desire to reduce the time the student is away from his primary tasks.

The suggestion from the presenters was to guide an evaluation of existing traing to break it up into primary, secondary, and tertiary training and to formulate it in a lattice framework for everyone to see so they ca decide where and when to take it.

Terms/topics to look up:

Learning 2013 - Breakout Session 101 - Living Online: The Internet's Impact on Human Memory, Decision Making, Creativity & Communication

The first session I attended at Learning 2013 was a Q&A session by Betsy Sparrow regarding living online. Sparrow is an assistant professor at Columbia University's Psychology Department. She initially was not my first choice for the 8:00 am, Monday session. I chose at the last minute to attend her session was due to her comments at the Sunday night opening session when she was interviewed by Elliott Masie and she commented that we are now focusing on where to find information online rather than remember the knowledge itself.

At her Monday morning session her question to the participants was "Should simple tasks be delegated to look-up learning?" And, as a result of this delegation are we losing our memory of simple things. Trans-active memory gives away control of remembering things to our appliances and the internet. That memory then assumes a belief and a trust that the sites we are turning to are reputable and not willing to mislead us. These sites may be moderated by experts or crowd-sourced.

Belief is the key and if trust in a site or organization is squandered the people looking for information will go elsewhere. So sites cannot stagnate, they must constantly review their content to ensure it is valid and relevant.

Key term learned: Agency: You have control over your learning.