HPT-Design


Graphic: American Research Institute

Graphic: American Research Institute

Anyone who reads this blog knows I am am big supporter of just-in-time learning.  The popularity of mobile devices (e.g., smart phones and tablet computers) has provided a platform for delivering learning at the point of need.  This morning I received a link to an article that provides tips for designing mobile learning.  The article is authored by the co-founder of Allen Interactions.  Based on work I’ve done with them in the past, I can vouch for their technical expertise and the high instructional design standards they have (which are unavoidably evident in the article).  Not all of it is relevant or even worth reading if you are not ready to make the leap into mobile learning.

With that in mind, I have selected some excerpts and given my thoughts on each.

“If you are developing mobile learning that must be taken prior to actual job performance, then the learning moment is different from the performance moment.  Therefore, retention and application should be the goal.”
My thoughtsThis point helps to differentiate between learning and information.  The author correctly points out that the design must account for retention.   Retention also implies practice and assessment is involved in the design.

“[I]f the learning moment can be taken during the performance moment, then the mobile learning should be designed as a performance support tool.  This means designing an intuitive and efficient interface with well indexed, searchable content that allows the learner to access snippets of information specifically targeted for unique situations.”
My thoughts: I believe much value can be realized within an organization if it had a strategy for cataloging and making its institutional knowledge widely available to its employees.  Social media enables people to share knowledge in ways that could not have been anticipated or dreamed of in the not-so-distant past.  Additionally, the same tools used to access mobile learning can be used to create it.

He goes on to provide practical advice for developers.  I don’t expect a non-learning professional to care much about that, especially if you aren’t currently considering mobile learning.  There are other implications with mobile learning that I won’t take time to discuss now.  I hope this helps stimulate some thought on the subject.

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If you build it, they will come.

That’s a famous line from the movie Field of Dreams.  But does it apply to e-learning?  In chapter 7 of his book, Designing Successful E-Learning, Michael Allen says probably not.  How often do we assume that the mere presence of an e-learning program, or any course, will attract an audience?  I accept that some responsibility lies with topic selection but the design plays a significant role as well.

Dr. Allen suggests that applying traditional instructional design to e-learning focuses too much on simply presenting information and passing a test to achieve its full potential.

Much contemporary instructional design is based on behaviorism or retains at least a strong flavor of it.

Simply get people to respond as we wish, provide knowledge of results as a reward, and practice until correct responses meet criteria.

Unfortunately, this approach, while quite effective with mice and pigeons to “teach” them relatively simple behaviors, has not worked well with humans.  It does not embrace the complexity of human thinking, emotions, motivation, and the powerful effects of the environment in which people behave.

Dr. Allen’s solution is to incorporate the Stages of Change model into instructional design.  This 6-step model below acknowledges that most people do not want to change or don’t see the need for change.  Since the goal of e-learning is to bring about change I believe Dr. Allen’s solution has merit.


In Dr. Allen’s revised approach, an e-learning course should include pre-instructional material.  He specifically warns against giving the learners a reading list.  Pre-instructional activities focus the learner’s mind on the need for behavior change (pre-contemplation), focus on the problem and consider solutions (contemplation).  What is traditionally considered formal instruction does not begin until the preparation stage.

You may ask, “what can I do to focus my learners on needs and solutions?”  One of my favorite ways to focus a learner is to give them a problem to solve.  Working on the problem can point out to the learner what he or she knows (and doesn’t know).  The great thing about e-learning is nobody has to know what the outcome is.  Introductory activities focus the learner on the subject matter, reveal learning opportunities (pre-contemplation) and motivate the learner to continue with the course.

In the rest of the chapter Dr. Allen address informal and blended learning.  Both are useful ways to introduce and follow-up on learning.  I’m not going to cover everything in the chapter.  Go out and buy the book yourself.  You won’t regret it.

Source: http://www.learningguidesolutions.com/images/uploads/pdf/Learningguide_presentatie_Nick_van_Dam-.pdf

Like any training medium, online learning can be misused.  It is so quick and easy to put something online that even well-meaning people could fail to employ instructional design principles when creating their materials.  I understand that their are times when project constraints require hard decisions to be made.  However, if you are allocating time and resources to a learning project it is important to employ best practices.

The image above demonstrates the need for instructional design principles when creating online learning.  In short, the more engaged a learner is, the more he or she retains.

Much of what passes as online learning involves lots of reading and seeing. Very rarely does it require the learner to contribute anything.  If you want your learners to retain more you must involve them.  That takes effort, expertise, and a desire to create a more meaningful experience for your audience.

Have you ever thought your classroom training could have been shorter?  Did your e-learning course resemble a PowerPoint slideshow?  Has your mind wandered during a webinar?  Ever wanted to test out of some training?

As a learning professional it is my responsibility to choose the delivery method that will achieve the best outcome.  My primary consideration is ensuring the participants retain what they are supposed to learn.  If that was the only consideration my life would be a lot easier.  For better or worse we live and work in a world of budget constraints, geographic separation, and learning styles that affect our how we present training.

When I started my career in adult learning e-learning was hot and organizations were moving all their training out of the classroom.  In their eagerness to catch this wave, little or no consideration was given to instructional design.  Later I joined an organization that relied heavily on classroom training.  Neither of these situations is better than the other.

So what is the best way to present training?

The only way to answer that question is, it depends on your situation.  The table below matches frequently asked questions with common delivery methods.  The table is intended to help decide what is the best way to present your training.

Don’t agree with something in the table?  Add a comment.  Start the discussion.

Below the table are links that provide additional information about each of the methods.

ILT -Classroom

ILT-Online

Webinar

Asynchronous Online (Podcast, etc)

Multimedia Online

Coaching/

Mentoring

Do the instructor and students need to be in the same location?

X

X

Do the instructor and students need to interact?

X

X

X

X

Do the students need to interact with each other?

X

X

Do students need immediate feedback and remediation?

X

X

X

X

Does the content require rich media (video and audio)?

X

X

X

X

Does the content require long explanations (over 20 minutes)?

X

X

X

X

Does the content require practice?

X

X

X

X

Does the content require hands-on practice?

X

Does the content require role play or simulations?

X

X

X

Does the learning need to be assessed?

X

X

X

X

Is the training time-sensitive?

X

X

X

X

Resources:
Training Delivery Methods
Training Delivery Options and Media

I’ve had several discussions lately about online “training.”  This is a highly specialized form of delivery that requires unique skills, planning, and management.  These discussions got me thinking about the responsibilities and personnel required to create online courses.  Much of the information below is from of my good friend Rich Dunn.

Please note the responsibilities listed appear to imply a specific person is required.  In some cases that is the case but for the most part, the responsibilities can be contracted out.  If it is decided to sub-contract some of the work a strong and experienced project manager is key to the success of the project.

–          Project management

–          Instructional design

–          Writing and editing

–          Graphic arts

–          Technical (includes programming)

–          Media

–          Quality Assurance

Some of these are often combined into single roles (e.g., PM is often combined with instructional design and writing) and many are contracted out in small environments (e.g., editing and media).  I’ve seen some job listings advertise for a PM/ID/GA/Programmer all wrapped in one…usually under the title of “Instructional Technologist w/ experience in creating X.”  My guess is these companies are getting started with multimedia in-house and don’t have the benefit of experience and are shy about allocating resources.   High level tools, like Captivate, make it tempting to leave everything up to one person but my opinion is it is rare, if not impossible, to find a single person who can do everything and produce a quality course.  These domains need to be understood and separated to encourage more than mediocre training development, increase acceptance, and above all to avoid costly mistakes.  I would also be very concerned about an all-in-one employee experiencing burn out.

Here’s how I’d break these down further to include your responsibilities and some others I’ve added.

Project Management

  • Manage timeline, budget, communication with stakeholders
  • Manage sub contractors
  • Gather and manage content

Instructional Design

  • Identify learning outcome(s), goals and objectives
  • Design interactivity/Create interactions
  • Write scripts or storyboards for development team
  • Oversee editing of scripts

Note: I’ve gone ahead and combined the writing and editing tasks under ID assuming you’d do the same.  Someone would need to establish styles and conventions in this area, of course, especially when working with multiple people and projects.

Graphic arts

  • Create a user interface design appropriate to the project
  • Create a look and feel for the project
  • Create media assets (Given assumptions mainly graphics to start)

Note: There are different types of artists.  Ideally, you want someone who can handle all three responsibilities listed above and handle them well.  However, this is often difficult to find and as companies grow the roles tend to split into art director and production artist.

Technical

  • Analysis identifying technical infrastructure requirements and solutions.  This would include LMS or LCMS selection, use of standards like SCORM, technologies and tools used for development, etc..
  • Software system design for the first task but also for setting up a core skeleton used and reused on course projects.
  • Programming
  • Testing
  • Maintenance tasks such as documentation, backing up assets, and revision control
  • LMS administration

Note: this is a tough one to address because it depends on the outcome of the initial analysis.  One possible solution would be to look for a company that would lease space on an existing LMS and as a result potentially relieve your team from taking on the associated administration task, which can easily become a role by itself.  Another possibility, is to integrate everything into existing HR systems or make the LMS into the main HR system.  The administration task would then fall to an HR person, hopefully.  Programming will vary depending on the tasks that need to be done.  If an LMS needs to be altered, you’re looking for one of many different programming language and platform skills.  Programming skills will be different for developing in tools like FLASH.

 Media composition and editing

  • Plan media production efforts  (shot lists, scripts, prop lists, location selection and setup, etc.)
  • Produce video and audio media assets
  • Post-production editing and composition

Note:  You said to assume graphics only but I couldn’t resist putting in just a few things here.  As you know, this is an area that can get expensive quickly depending on expectations.  Stock media and low production quality can still be effective in some cases.  Does your company have a unit that does video already for marketing and training?  What about producing and publishing of movie products for your stores or is all of that done by other companies/producers?

QA

  • Establish a QA procedure
  • Content testing and verification
  • Functionality testing
  • User acceptance

The design of a performance improvement solution resembles traditional instructional design.  You must articulate goals and objectives and any unique conditions that apply to the performance.  It must be clear how the goals and objectives will close the performance gap.   Where human performance technology differs from instructional design is in the nature of the solution.  An instructional designer designs and implements learning solutions.  A human performance specialist can be responsible for redesigning work processes, individual and organizational development, and developing training.  Below I will summarize two projects I have worked on to illustrate these points.

Receiving Certification
Receiving product shipments correctly in stores is critical to ensure correct accounting and to optimize sales.  While this is a critical function, it does not need to be performed by management.  Associates can follow the steps to scan merchandise into the store’s inventory and coordinate with the manager to resolve any problems.  To be successful, an associate must be able to demonstrate competency with the receiving processes and pass a test on specific policy issues.
The solution was to create training materials based on receiving processes and to develop a test covering important policy issues.  Store managers were provided with the training materials and instructors for using them.  The test included references to the policy manual to ensure they provided the correct information to associates if they missed a test question.  To ensure accountability, a checklist was created for manager’s to sign and date when an associate completed each part of the certification.  This enabled supervisory staff to review compliance easily and quickly.

Search Warrant Writing
Writing a search warrant is intimidating and requires specialized writing.  It is intimidating because a police officer will have to present their warrant to a judge for approval.  Most officers do not have any idea what to expect that to be like.  It is common practice for an officer to ask his or her colleagues for an example when they have to write their first warrant.  This can be helpful to get started but it can also perpetuate mistakes.
The solution to this performance issue was to create a tool similar to TurboTax to help officers write their warrant.  The goal was to provide court-tested language for specific parts of the search warrant (certain parts of the warrant are case-specific and can’t be provided).  We also created training to demystify the process of preparing and getting a warrant signed by a judge.  We taught officers what to gather and how to prepare the information for their warrant.  We also walked them through the process of presenting the warrant to a judge and what to do at the court house.
Both of these were made available online through a secure website to facilitate access.

Cognitive Interviewing
The gap in this project dealt with interviewing victims and witnesses of violent or traumatic events.  Ideally officers would be able to gather detailed information from victims and witnesses in these circumstances.  However, the affects of the event interferes with a victim or witness’s ability to recall the event accurately.
We determined that the performance problem was process related.  Officers were using traditional interviewing techniques when a more advanced technique was required.  We convened interviewing experts to determine the best technique to teach and to design training that would equip officers.  Our design provided background on how the brain stores information and specific methods for retrieving memories.

A key word in this series is “design.”  It would be understandable for a person to ask “when is he going to get around to discussing design?”  I’m almost there.  Before I do, I want to review where we have been in previous posts.

Whenever an organization is dealing with a performance problem, the focus must be on results (ISPI standard #1).    You may think training is required.  You may discuss who is or is not doing what they’re supposed to do.  Some may suggest investing in new software or systems.  Resist these temptations.   Focusing your efforts on results will put your discussions into the right context.  This will enable you to collect the right information, understand the true cause of the problem, and come up with a solution that will achieve the desired results.

Focusing on improved results sets the tone for the entire effort.  You must also consider the situation or context (ISPI standard #2) and decide what resources are required to effectively achieve the desired results.  With a clear understanding of the context and the right people on the project (ISPI standard #4), it is time to do a detailed analysis of the problem (ISPI standard #5).  Your preliminary research and partnerships will help.  Throughout all of this, resist the temptation to draw conclusions too soon.  Patterns will emerge.  Solutions will seem appropriate and attractive.  Wait until you have all the data and have analyzed it before you draw conclusions.  Let the data reveal the true nature of the problem and what is causing it (ISPI standard #6).

I can’t tell you the number of times I have seen an organization decide training will solve a problem without any idea what results they are trying to achieve.  They see that something is going wrong so they automatically assume training will fix it.  What do you train on?  Who decides what the training should be about?  How will you know the participants got what they’re supposed to get?  To find the right answer you have to ask the right questions.  Here are some ideas to get started.

  • What are your expectations (be specific)?
  • What does “wrong” look like?
  • What does “right” look like?
  • Who is doing it “right?”
  • Why is this person doing it “right?”
  • Why can they do it “right” and others can’t?
  • How will we know we have achieved our goal?

This process does not have to take months to complete.  Depending on the scope of the situation, performance improvement can be achieved in weeks or possibly even days.  Do not automatically assume that this process will consume a lot of time and resources.  It is not unusual for this process to save money.

This is a time-tested approach to achieve a successful outcome.  It isn’t always glamorous, but it works.  With the review behind us, lets get on with the discussion of ISPI standard #7, design.

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