Tag: Julie Dirksen

Do People Need to Learn, or Can They Look It All Up?

I have been part of several discussions recently that questioned the value of creating courses and delivering formal training. There’s a perception among some people (including some L&D folks) that as long as you have Google and a good network of resources that you can look up anything you need. The other, related idea is that everything can be learned on the job with performance support, without formal training. In this post, I’ll examine the first question.

Do People Really Need to Learn?

Question 1: Do People Need to Bother Learning?

The first argument asks if people need to bother learning anything at all, or if they can just look it up when they need it. Do you really need to remember if you have a mobile phone and a search engine always available?

For example, Bruce Graham started a lively conversation in the Articulate Heroes community by describing someone he met at a conference. She said she takes all the elearning in their organization, regardless of quality, but doesn’t bother to remember much because she knows she can always look it up later. Bruce explains that Henry Ford approached building cars the same way; he found ways to assemble a group of experts and made them available any time he had a question.

He did not need to learn, just have access to knowledge.

If this is how people are REALLY now using online learning, and using our product(s), do all our clever animations, graphics, interactions and so on actually matter any more?

Let’s just give out facts, because millennials know how to access it, and will go back when they need it.

Why do they need to bother learning?

Sometimes You Can Look It Up

I think plenty of things can just be looked up at the time of need. I don’t need to memorize the recipes for most of the dishes I cook; I can just read the recipe to get the exact amounts and steps. For those sorts of tasks, we should probably be creating job aids (recipes and hints for work tasks) rather than courses. At a minimum, we should be creating training plus job aids, or training that helps people learn how to use performance support.

I recently wrote a course where one of the main goals is for people to know where to find and how to use the resources. We don’t care if they can remember all 10 points and 50+ subpoints of this policy. We care that they’re aware that the policy exists and that they can navigate the website to look up the policy when they need it. Therefore, the content delivery is very light. The practice activities are questions like “look up in Table 1 what you need for this safety precaution” and “use this self-assessment to determine what components of the standard you’re currently meeting or not.”

Deeper, Internalized Expertise

Some tasks require a deeper expertise though. A musician can’t stop in the middle of a song to look up a fingering. A salesperson can’t ask a customer to “hold that thought” while he fires up the elearning on objection handling. A doctor can’t ask a patient to wait while she pulls up the example audio of what a heart murmur sounds like for comparison. A line manager can’t walk out in the middle of a meeting to review the online course about delegation. Those skills require internalizing knowledge deeply enough that you can use them at the time of need. You can’t have everything be “just in time.”

Finding Information Isn’t Learning

Steve Flowers argued that searching is fine for finding information, but that’s not the same as training.

We have unprecedented access to good and bad information. To perfectly valid facts and information that can help us get things done. To perfectly misleading and wrong information that can lead us down the wrong path.

This is the core problem with the way many view training and learning. This conflation of movement of information with the efficiency of a training solution is flat wrong. It’s not about storing information in our heads. It’s about being able to adapt and adapt quickly to whatever challenges the task you’ve trained for presents. This rarely hinges on our ability to recall information. Doesn’t mean information isn’t important. But that’s only one ingredient.

Cake != Flour. It’s more than that.

Information != Knowledge != Behavior != Task Success != Results

Work is more complicated than, “Let me Google that” for many types of things that we do. Adept search skills are great. Helpful. But that domain expertise does not transfer to all other domains equally.

I think Steve makes a really important point here. Training is more than just sharing information. It’s also providing people opportunities to practice skills and get feedback to improve performance.

Which Tasks Need to Be Trained?

Sometimes, looking things up (like a recipe or a table of standards) is enough. Sometimes, it’s not. So how do we figure out which tasks are skills that need to be trained and which ones just need a job aid or a searchable resource?

Julie Dirksen shared an idea in her Learning Solutions Conference presentation that I think helps make that distinction.

Think of a task or topic where you might create training or performance support. Is it reasonable to think that someone can be proficient without practice? If people can be proficient without practice, you don’t need training. If people need practice to be proficient, that’s a skill where training might be helpful.

Performance support might also be helpful, especially after the initial training when people are practicing on the job. If it’s something you need to practice, just searching for information won’t be enough though.

Should We Create Courses?

In my next post, I’ll expand more about whether or not we should create courses. (Hint: I think we should, at least sometimes.)

What I Learned at LSCon18

Last month, I attended the Learning Solutions 2018 Conference in Orlando. Once again, it was a great experience. I had fun meeting people like Judy Katz, Tracy Parish, Cammy Bean, and Clark Quinn in person who I have known online for years, plus seeing people again from last year.

Now that I’ve had a few weeks to process and reflect, I want to summarize some of what I learned. I did a similar post last year, and it helped me reinforce and remember what I learned. This is my own “spaced repetition” to help me use these ideas. These comments won’t always be the most important thing each speaker said, but one thing I took away from the session and think I can apply in my own work.

Diane Elkins: Microlearning Morning Buzz

One of the things I appreciated from Diane’s discussion was the balanced approach. This wasn’t the “microlearning will solve all of our problems!” hyperbole I see from many sources. We talked about how microlearning is sometimes a solution, sometimes on its own, sometimes in combination with other forms of training.

Diane also shared a really great idea for training where you have to meet a certain minimum time to meet a legal or regulatory requirement. Instead of doing lots of content dump (which is sometimes padded to fill the required time), why not do just the minimum content plus a lot of practice and maybe reflection?

As a side note, Diane’s hand puppet demonstrations of pointless conversations with SMEs are hilarious.

Kai Kight: Composing Your World

As a musician and former music educator, it was really fun to hear a session start with violin and to watch the reactions of the audience.

One of the ideas from his keynote was to not get so wrapped up in the notes that you forget who you’re playing for. That applies to our work (and many fields); we have to always keep thinking about the audience and what they need.

Kevin Thorn: Comics for Learning

This was a session I attended specifically because it’s outside of what I normally do for work. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to apply this yet, but thinking about the various visual styles for comics gives me some new ideas.

Kevin shared a ton of research, examples, and resources. One that I need to dig into more is the Visual Language Lab.

Ann Rollins and Myra Roldan: Low-Cost, High-Impact AR Experiences

This was another session where I have no experience with the topic, but was curious to see some possibilities. My biggest takeaway is that several tools for simple AR are pretty affordable and easy enough to get started. Simple things like showing a video or a little information to explain features is very doable. We tested Zappar in the session to create a quick sample, but Layar also looks promising.

Julie Dirksen: Strategies for Supporting Complex Skill Development

I took 5 pages of notes from this session, so this could be several blog posts on its own.

How do you know if something is a skill or not? Is it reasonable to think that someone can be proficient without practice? If not, it’s a skill.

One idea I’m going to start using immediately is for self-paced elearning where I ask learners to type a longer answer. I have been using a model answer to compare as a way to help learners evaluate their own work, which is a good start. Julie talked about giving learners a checklist to guide their self-evaluation even more. I can implement that right now.

Tracy Parish: Free eLearning Design Tools

This was a discussion about free tools and how people use them, based largely on Tracy’s immense list of free tools.

Platon: Powerful Portraits

This was an engaging keynote because he has so many great stories about famous (and not famous) people.

One idea he shared was that if you can get people to see themselves in the story you put forward, maybe you can build bridges to connect people.

Cammy Bean: Architecting for Results

The big idea from this presentation was to think about broader systems for learning. Instead of content in a single event, it’s a journey over time. It’s a mix of what you do before the training, during the training, and after the training, but we often focus just on the middle portion.

The mix is going to be a little different for every program. This model is one way to think about the different pieces.

  1. Engage
  2. Diagnose
  3. Learn/Understand
  4. Apply
  5. Assess
  6. Reinforce

The simplified version is Prepare – Learn – Practice – Reflect.

Connie Malamed: Design Critique Party

The best thing I took away from this session was actually the protocol for requesting and giving critiques.

The protocol for the designer requesting critique:

  1. State your objective.
  2. Walk people through the experience.
  3. Say what you’d like to get feedback on
  4. Become an impartial observer

The protocol for giving critique:

If your objective is ____________, then _________ [critique].

Joe Fournier: Novel Writing Tricks

One idea from this session was about how the idea of a theme might apply to learning. The theme ties to the objective. It’s the emotional or value shift in a story. In learning, the theme might be how reporting employee theft is better for everyone.

Panel: Evolution of Instructional Design

This panel included Connie Malamed, Diane Elkins, Kevin Thorn, and Clark Quinn.

Diane Elkins pointed out that in classroom training, we often ask questions that only a few people will answer, and we don’t track them. If it’s OK to do that in classroom training, why not do it in elearning too? It’s OK to ask learners to type longer answers even though some of them will skip it. Let’s not punish the people who are willing to do the work and learn more just because we can’t track it or not everyone will do it.

David Kelly moderated the panel, and he pointed out how our field has a lot of “shiny object syndrome.” We’re often looking for “one tool to rule them all” that will fix every problem in every situation. That just doesn’t exist.

David Kelly: Shifting from Microlearning to Micromoments

There is no definition of microlearning. There are lots of opinions, some of which are labeled as definitions.

Maybe we should be thinking about micro as in microscope: something that narrows the scope of focus to a tiny part of the whole.

Bethany Vogel & Cara Halter: cMOOCs can be Effective

They used Intrepid Learning as the platform, which may be worth exploring more.

In their model, a MOOC is a time-bound online program that contains highly contextualized spaced, micro, and social learning. “Massive” and “Open” aren’t really part of their model, so I admit I’m not sure why they’re calling it a MOOC (other than that’s what their clients are asking for). I think you could do this same model with moderated social, spaced learning and call it “blended” or a “journey.” The experience was good, even if I might quibble with the label.

Photos

You can get a feel for the conference here.

 

Elearning Trends for 2018

At the end of last year, Bryan Jones from eLearningArt reached out to me for my predictions on the top 3 eLearning trends for 2018.

He then took the responses from me and 56 other experts and put together a summary video of the top trends here and an article of the top eLearning trends here.

Here are the top 3 trends that I picked, as well as some commentary:

Mobile (#5 on the overall list)

Mobile learning has been happening for over 10 years, and this trend will continue in 2018. Now that mobile learning has been around for a while, we’re learning how to do mobile more effectively than to just put long courses on a smaller screen. The impending demise of Flash will require significant effort in the next few years converting and upgrading old Flash courses to HTML5, which also makes content accessible on more devices.

Microlearning (#1 on the overall list)

Microlearning will continue to be a buzzword for 2018, although I predict we’ll still be hammering out what we actually mean by the term. As we move to more mobile learning, shorter learning and performance support will be more prevalent.

Science-based learning (#8 on the overall list)

Maybe this is my wishful thinking rather than my prediction, but I do see an increasing trend toward science-based and evidence-based learning. While plenty of myths are still perpetuated by the unscrupulous and unaware, I see backlash against pseudoscience. We are fortunate in our field to have folks like Will Thalheimer, Patti Shank, and Julie Dirksen who are working to debunk myths and make research more accessible to practitioners.

 

12+ Books for Instructional Designers

If you’re looking for some reading to improve your skills or get started in the field of instructional design, check out these books.

ID books

General Instructional Design and E-Learning

Design For How People Learn (now in its second edition) by Julie Dirksen is one of my favorite books in the field. I’ve recommended it many times. It’s easy to read and understand. It makes research about learning accessible in ways you can apply immediately. The illustrations are charming and reinforce the concepts well. Read my review for more details.

The Accidental Instructional Designer by Cammy Bean is especially good for career changers and those who landed in instructional design from other fields. It provides a model for the range of skills that fall under the umbrella of “instructional design.” It includes practical tips on topics such as working with SMEs and avoiding “clicky clicky bling bling” or flashy interactivity and multimedia for the sake of being flashy. The design models in chapter 4 are probably familiar to many with experience in the field but very helpful to beginners who want to do more than just the same type of course and interaction for every situation.

Designing Successful e-Learning by Michael Allen tells you to “Forget What You Know About Instructional Design and Do Something Interesting.” All of Allen’s books are focused on helping people design e-learning that is interactive, engaging, and useful.

e-Learning and the Science of Instruction by Ruth Clark and Richard Mayer is one of the first books on e-learning I bought, and I still refer to it when I need evidence to justify decisions to clients. If you’ve ever wondered if formal or conversational style is better for learning (conversational) or if your on-screen text should replicate what’s on the screen (no, it shouldn’t), this book explains it with the research to back it up. It’s not perfect; the authors do sometimes disregard research that contradicts their own findings, and they sometimes make their principles seem more absolute than they probably are in real life. However, it’s still a solid reference.

First Principles of Instruction: Identifying and Designing Effective, Efficient and Engaging Instructionis David Merrill’s effort to distill the common principles from multiple instructional design theories. A shorter, earlier explanation of these principles is available as a free PDF.

Games and Scenario-Based Learning

The Gamification of Learning and Instruction by Karl Kapp explains how to do more with gamification than just badges and points. Karl summarizes research and game theory and explains how substantive elements of games like narrative can be used to improve learning design. I wrote more about this gamification research previously.

Scenario-based e-Learning by Ruth Clark is similar to eLearning and the Science of Instruction in that it summarizes research findings. This book is specifically focused on developing scenario-based e-learning, including everything from simple branching scenarios to complex simulations.

Learning Communities

Building Online Learning Communities by Rena Palloff and Keith Pratt is aimed more at online instructors than instructional designers, but it’s a wonderful resource for IDs working in higher education or supporting online and blended learning communities.

Digital Habitats: Stewarding Technology for Communities by Etienne Wenger, Nancy White, and John Smith is about how technology can enable communities of practice.

Other Topics

Learning Everywhere by Chad Udell is a fantastic resource on mobile learning, providing everything from a big picture view of broad categories of mobile learning to specific technical considerations and pitfalls. You can read my review of the book for more details.

Show Your Work by Jane Bozarth is full of visuals and explains how to “show your work” by sharing what you’re doing and learning using social tools. The book explains the benefits of creating a culture where people share their processes and discoveries.

Now updated to E-Learning Uncovered: Adobe Captivate 9, which I’m sure is just as good as the last edition. E-Learning Uncovered: Adobe Captivate 8 by Diane Elkins, Desiree Pinder, and Tim Slade sat on my desk for multiple weeks because I used it so often that it wasn’t worth bothering to put it back on the shelf. This book was an immense help to me in learning Captivate 8. I’m sure their other books on Storyline 2, Lectora, etc. are equally valuable.

More Reading Lists

I received so many great suggestions after posting this list that I posted 20+ More Books for Instructional Designers.

If that’s not enough, these reading lists will give you additional ideas.

Your Selections

Did I miss one of your favorite books? Leave a comment with your suggestions.

Book Review: Design for How People Learn

Julie Dirksen’s Design For How People Learnis a great book for instructional designers because it actually is written using the principles taught. Some instructional design books use a “do as I say, not as I do” kind of approach: they talk about chunking content into manageable amounts, using effective visuals, and motivating learners, but they are filled with long, unbroken blocks of dry text. Design for How People Learn is an easy, fun read, with lots of visuals and realistic examples that touch on frustrating problems instructional designers face.

Julie says, “I recently heard the advice for authors that you should write the book you want to read but can’t find. That’s basically what I did.”

This review is for the first edition (blue cover).

The second edition is now available (yellow cover).

Lots of Images

Images are interspersed in every topic. It’s a lot of stick figures, but you’d be surprised at how effective stick figures can be at conveying a concept. For example, chapter 2 “Who Are Your Learners?” includes a series of stick figures facing different inclines representing the challenge of a course. It’s five variations of a single stick figure with a single angled line depicting a hill, but it still gets the point across. You can see how a novice learner is facing a steeper hill than an expert. I was a little surprised to not find any screenshots of actual courses, but the book doesn’t feel like it’s missing them.

When I was reading this book, I realized that I suddenly started using a lot more visuals in the course I was developing. The way the images were done in the book gave me more inspiration for my own course. Even if you’re an experienced instructional designer who is already familiar with most of the research and principles, this book is valuable as an example of well-done graphics for learning.

Stories and Examples

Although the book doesn’t include screenshots or examples of actual courses or training materials, the stories and examples do depict actual problems instructional designers face. For example, there’s an example of a new manager who has gone through training but isn’t applying the coaching skills taught. You’re given a description of her performance and asked to consider whether this is really a problem that can be fixed by training. It’s very realistic; you’ve probably seen or experienced a similar situation yourself. You can connect it to your experience, and it’s easy to see how this applies in your work. Julie explains benefits of using stories later in the book, but she applies the principle throughout.

Accessible Research

The book includes lots of research about how we learn and remember, but it’s very accessible. The language is approachable and often humorous. The research is always framed in terms of “OK, so what does that mean for me when I’m creating a course? What do I do with that research?” I admit that there weren’t a lot of surprises for me in the research; it was mostly information I was already familiar with. I expect anyone with a masters degree in instructional design or who does a lot of independent reading and study would find it to be the same. However, those who are just getting started in the field or are accidental instructional designers will find to be a good foundation of research principles. The references at the end of each chapter are a good resource to dig deeper.

More Info

The Table of Contents and a sample chapter on motivation are both available on Julie’s site.