Tag Archives: Intsructional design

Wonderful eLearning

Happy Day by Peter IsmagilovLast week I attended yet another excellent event run by the eLearning Network. I always enjoy spending time in the company of like minded people all with one goal in mind – better quality eLearning. If you weren’t able to make it, then there was an active back channel in Twitter so check out #elnevent to catch up.
First up was Bill Miller of Wonderful Learning. Well, it was certainly a wonderful session and a great way to kick the whole day off which was all about attaining ‘truly effective eLearning’.

Why? Because Bill took us back to considering what is THE most important element of successful eLearning – how our learners feel!

If we consider for just a moment, how many of us are unable to think straight whenever we feel anxiety or stress; how we go blank when taking exams. Bill’s session took us through a highly engaging and entertaining trip through the thinking of Carl Rogers and his setting of the emotional climate; introduced us to the neurobiologist Antonio Damasio and his thoughts on the effect emotions have on our decision-making; and a little insight into recent brain research.

With the introduction of MRI scanning, we’ve been able to find out amazing things about how our brains react to different stimuli. Connie Malamed in her blog The eLearning Coach shared a great piece about Emotions and Learning

Without going into the science bit… you can look that up for yourselves… let’s consider the following-

For some years now, as classroom facilitators we’ve begun to realise how important it is to ‘settle’ our learners so their learning environment is comfortable. We understand about removing barriers that may ‘get in the way’ of their openness to learn. We are what some may call ‘people’ people. We know it’s important to build a trusting relationship between us and our learners and to foster the same amongst them. Becoming increasingly aware of how our own actions will help or hinder has transformed the physical classroom environment into a positive and enjoyable experience.

Why, then, do we often forget this when introducing learning in an ‘e’ environment?

If you imagine that you have been taken out of this familiar, comfortable, setting surrounded by others in the same situation who you can confide in, draw on for support, and where there is someone who can give guidance and advice… then you are plunged into this strange and isolating world of technology, where the only voice seems to be your own, where the tools you have been given are unfamiliar and it seems you are cut off from humanity? How do you feel?

It seems when our learners are thrown into the unknown, the unfamiliar, we remove from them that which helps overcome their feelings of anxiety. If anything, as instructional designers and facilitators of eLearning, we should work even harder to incorporate the research of Carl Rogers, Antonio Damasio and what we are increasingly learning about that little almond shaped part of our limbic system, the amygdala and its influence on our decision-making.

Becoming more self-aware in our design of eLearning – or rather, more aware of our learners’ needs, experiences and emotions, we can design for THEM.

Taking you back to Bill’s session here are some of his thoughts to leave you with:

  • There are more neural pathways to the pre-frontal cortex (the thinking part of our brain) than going back
  • The rational thought processes have been emotionally tagged because they pass through the limbic system (our emotional part of the brain)
  • Emotions need to be at the forefront of learning

The session that followed Bill’s linked superbly by looking at the importance of user interface design from Richard Hyde of Mind Click but more of that another day.

Designing eLearning? Here’s a little help from your friends!

Photo by Gomez f on Stock XchangeIt’s been clear for some time now that organisations are moving increasingly towards implementing e-learning to improve efficiency in delivering training. Whether the e-learning they’re considering is the most appropriate or only solution is a whole different story.

However, let’s imagine that you’ve carried out an in-depth analysis looking closely at the needs and experiences of your audience, established the the performance need, made sure there’s clear link to organisational goals and considered all possible options. You’ve come to the conclusion that the type of e-learning appropriate, whether wholly or as part of a blend, is the self-study interactive tutorial.

OK, so now you’re confident in your decision, now you have to decide how this should be done. If you’ve ruled out going externally and buying off the shelf, the alternative is to produce yourself in-house.

But what if you’re new to all this stuff? Well you could go on a course! But what if this isn’t an option – where do you start? There’s so much information and advice out there you can feel overwhelmed so I thought I’d get some useful resources together which might help in your quest for creating the holy grail of e-learning – that which engages and produces effective results.

Firstly, here are just a small selection of my own blog posts to start you thinking:

The great thing about the eLearning community is everyone loves to share. Here are some excellent resources from some of the greats in the e-learning field (and I mean only some – there are many more but these are good to get you started):

Take a look at Cathy Moore’s blog and particularly her ‘Action Mapping‘. One important way of making elearning more realistic, relevant and engaging is using stories and scenarios. Here’s another post by Cathy Moore on creating mini scenarios.

I’ve often said that PowerPoint is your secret weapon when creating eLearning tutorials so my advice is to learn all you can about how to use its graphics as in depth as you can. Oh… and toss the template. By that, I mean, always use a blank slide so you’re not constrained by any PowerPoint’s standard, heavy bulleted slides. For ideas on how you can be creative with PowerPoint, check out Articulate’s Rapid eLearning Blog. No matter what authoring tool you have, the Rapid eLearning Blog will give you handy tips and ideas.

I’d definitely recommend putting The eLearning Coach on your reading list. Here’s a great post on different ways to provide feedback in your elearning.

Kineo has also got a lot of great resources and free advice too.

You need to balance effective learning with effective visuals when designing elearning and in the absence of a graphic design qualification here are some good resources. These aren’t elearning based but some ideas can be applied to elearning screens:

And if you want professional advice backed up by research, get ‘e-Learning and the Science of Instruction‘ by Ruth Clark and Richard Mayer. Here’s my review of this book.

Well, I think that’s enough to get you all starting to think about what makes good elearning tutorials. As I said, there’s so much more out there but these are certainly my favourite and will be more than enough for you at the beginning.

So go on – give it a go. As the saying goes… it’s easier to eat the elephant one bite at a time. Give yourself small, achievable goals and practise. Join and participate in communities like Articulate’s ‘e-Learning Heroes‘ community where you can share some of your ideas and prototypes to get feedback from others in the community. I’d also recommend joining the eLearning Network, a UK organisation ‘run by the eLearning community for the eLearning community’ sharing best practice.

But just to leave you with a thought…. it’s all very well knowing where to go for help and advice but to put some great eLearning out there in your organisations you’ll need backing and support. Not only from your colleagues but from your managers. Clive Shepherd briefly covers this in his post ‘Tools, talent, training and, above all, time‘ and my follow-up post ‘Dream the impossible e-dream‘.

So go on – take that first bite of the elephant.

Dream the impossible e-dream

dreamcatcher

Another nail struck firmly on the head by Clive Shepherd in his post on the four Ts. So often, when keen individuals walk through our training room doors, their expectations are high. Unfortunately, equally, their expectations are also very often unrealistic. It soon becomes clear that there might not only be a lot to learn (but attainable) but a lot of time will be required to reach the appropriate skill level.

Clive explains this needs practise and practise needs time. Those already in the learning and development field may not need skills in how adults learn in general (you’d hope) but they will need to adapt their skills to design for a different delivery medium.  This means stepping into a whole new technological world – and, oh, how much of it there is! On the other hand those who might already be tech-savvy may not have the necessary skills in what make good learning.  Therefore each of these groups need up-skilling.

It’s encouraging to continually witness continued enthusiasm of people on  the eLearning courses I run.  Of course there are dips – usually when they realise exactly how much is involved.  But there are also highs when they realise they often have more experience and aptitude than they might have thought.  When they leave, their high expectations may have been capped, but mostly they still leave enthused and keen to put their new-found knowledge into practise.

However, that’s often when we hit the biggest downer of all ….

With these skills gaps already identified by organisations, employees are signed up for training courses to achieve what’s required.  It’s great news that organisations recognise this and are investing in their employees.  It’s certainly a step in the right direction.  However, along with the investment comes unrealistic expectations of speedy implementation.  In a previous post, I discussed the likelihood of compromising quality when unrealistic goals are set when implementing an in-house e-learning project.

This isn’t just limited to the domain of eLearning design though – again as I replied to a comment from Clarke Quinn to that same post above.  Throughout the years L&D teams have been faced with unrealistic time-scales and misconceptions about how much work is involved in developing learning programmes – whether they are eLearning, formal face to face training or even e-bites of instructional ‘how-to’ support material.  The result?  A compromise on quality or working ridiculously long hours or both!

Unless a clear eLearning strategy is agreed and supported by senior executives and across all levels of the organisation, we may likely to see a slow improvement in the quality of in-house produced eLearning content.

It’s not an impossible dream – it can happen with commitment, support and understanding.