Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
The 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, roughly states that 80% of the results are caused by 20% of the effort. This rule is applied commonly in business situations where for example, 80% of your income comes from 20% of your clients. This principle is meant to be a rule of thumb to guide decision making.
As a software developer, I use this principle. In many cases 80% of the user's desired outcomes can be accomplished by 20% of the application. I've always believed the development process for software applications and e-learning have a lot in common. In particular, time and cost must be balanced with functionality and results.
The Pareto Principle can be used to help focus time and effort to get the outcomes most desired. Don't have time to sit in 100% of the meetings? Identify the 20% of the meetings that cover 80% of the results and spend the most time analyzing those meetings. The subject matter expert doesn't have a lot of time to give on the project? Ask them to identify the 20% that needs to be learned to cover 80% of the outcomes.
I'm not saying to ignore the other 80% that is needed to fully cover a topic. However, I am saying there are realities that may keep you from being able to spend the time you need on a topic. Identify and invest in the 20% and your learners will be prepared for 80% of the outcomes.
Here's an example of where training often fails the 80/20 rule. A new software application is implemented at your organization. You are expected to train on the application.
The vendor provides training content and you are to convert it to training. Do you know where that content comes from? Here's the process:
Functional specifications are created for a software product. These specifications cover every thing the software is functionally able to do. What the software can do is not what the user necessarily needs to do. Following the Pareto Principle, the user may only need to use 20% of the software to accomplish 80% of the tasks.
The functional specifications are turned into help and documentation. Again, covering nearly 100% of what the software can do. What the users need to do? That's still not identified.
Next the training is produced. This is where failure often occurs. Training is created based on the documentation from the vendor. The thinking is that everything needs to be covered. Its an easy trap to fall into. Considering the Pareto Principle, training poorly on 100% of the application is not as effective as training thoroughly on the most important 20% of the application.
Therefore, focus needs to be given on the 20% of the software application the learner will use to create 80% of the outcomes.
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
- Project Description & Scope
When change comes you will need to manage it and keep it from sabotaging the project. Handle all of the changes and the expense goes up leaving the client unhappy. If you do not handle enough of the changes the client feels like they are losing control of the project to the developer.
If the client says it is important, then make the change. It can go a long way to building a relationship of trust between the developer and client.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
I've always been a software junkie. I'm happy to spend some money on a software product when I know it will save me hours of effort over the course of the next year. So when new software comes out, I'm like a kid at Christmas opening up the gift to see if I got what I wanted.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Sunday, April 14, 2013
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
I've discovered recently I don't like the term e-learning. This is because I recently had to go through the process of understanding what salary you pay someone who is an e-learning developer. It turns out that it varies dramatically depending on who you ask. This is because everyone has a different idea of what e-learning is and what it takes to develop it.
E-learning needs to be categorized in different buckets depending on what the needs of the learner are. When I evaluate learning needs in my organization, here are some of the e-learning buckets I think about.
Self-paced learning content is typically consumed by learners at their own pace and time. It is a great way to get learning out to a large audience and can save time and money over traditional face-to-face learning. It is often the bane of the learning community because everyone has experienced a bad disengaging page turner that puts them to sleep. But when done right it can be a very good option for the learner.
An online classroom offers many of the same benefits as face-to-face learning but it can be done remotely for a geographically dispersed group. In my experience this is one of the cheapest and quickest e-learning options.
Performance Support Systems
Electronic performance support systems provide just-in-time knowledge to learners who either don't have the time for other learning options. Also known as an EPSS, this type of system is great to house knowledge that is only used in rare cases.
Simulations are a great way to introduce learners to a real work environment where they can learn and experiment without fear of adverse consequences. Simulations can also be used as an EPSS when a learner needs to know something about the system but doesn't have access to a real system to test.
Knowledge Management Systems
Knowledge management is a collection of information for employees to learn from. In the past I've used systems like wikis, Lotus Notes, and SharePoint to serve as knowledge management systems. These systems contain documents or other multimedia that learners can access any time as needed.
Social and Collaborative Learning
Social learning environments are great ways for employees or experts to collaborate with each other and share experiences. Social environments I used a lot include Linked In and Twitter. I have found that organizations have been very slow to adopt these environment internally. I think this is an opportunity for the future.
Multimedia is a critical area for e-learning. It spans over every other bucket. Videos, animations, graphics, and audio can convey knowledge in ways that learners can grasp. In fact, videos can almost stand on their own as an e-learning option for a lot of projects.
What would you add to the e-learning bucket list?
Monday, March 25, 2013
By Dean Hawkinson
It seems like only yesterday that we began to see websites being posted for the first time on advertisements as the internet became more and more popular among advertisers and consumers. It got to the point that you were hard pressed to find advertising without a website associated with it.
Jump several years into the future to today where we now carry the mobile internet in our pockets with our smartphones and tablets, and are never without the internet at our fingertips. Now, I sit down to enjoy my large coke at my favorite fast food establishment and low and behold, there is this strange looking image on my cup that allows me to pull out my smartphone, use the AT&T Code Scanner app (or other scanner app) to “grab” that code and go directly to a website where I can enter a code to win a free order of fries or simply browse their web page. This technology is known as a QR (Quick Response) code.
Go ahead and try it out for yourself! Below is a QR code that you can scan to jump directly to the Integrated Learnings website. You will need to download an app that can read QR codes – there are several free apps available for all the major cell phone operating systems (iOS, Android and Windows). The AT&T Code Scanner is available free of charge for all three.
QR Codes and Learning
So, what do these QR codes have to do with learning? There are numerous ways that Instructional Designers and Trainers can take advantage of QR codes to enhance learning. It is as simple as creating the QR code (more on that in a bit) and downloading it as an image to be added to documents.
Let’s take a look at a few ways QR codes can enhance learning:
- Instructor-led Training – Picture a classroom without paper – not too much of a stretch in today’s learning environment – where your participants are using tablets for their interactive participant guides. QR codes can be imbedded into your PowerPoint presentation for instructor-led training and projected via the overhead projector. Using the tablet’s camera and downloadable scanner app, participants can obtain those participant guides and any other resources/job aids stored on a shared site or to be directed to a particular website to support the concepts being learned.
- Virtual Training – Same principles as Instructor Led training, but you will present the QR code via your Microsoft Live Meeting, Adobe Connect or other virtual classroom. It truly adds an element of interactivity to your virtual training.
- eLearning – In a web-based course, QR codes can be presented on your pages for easy scanning to access websites via a smartphone or tablet, or to obtain documents stored on a server. You can obviously link directly to websites with a link for the computer, but the QR code would be available for purposes when the document or site needs to be accessed via a mobile device.
- mLearning – QR codes would not be as widely used in an mLearning course as your learner would already be using a mobile device to access the training, so it would just be a matter of placing links in your material to go directly to the website or document. However, you would be able to use a QR code on the computer or printed material for that mobile device to scan and access the mLearning course itself.
Creating a QR Code
There are many different websites that allow you to build QR codes, and most of them are free. One such site is Kaywa.com. This site will allow you to create QR codes by simply entering the website address into a field and then downloading the code as an image file. You will need to establish a free account to use the site. However, performing an internet search for QR code generator will find many different websites that allow you to do the same thing.
Once you download the image, it is simply a matter of adding the image to your documents for scanning.
QR Codes are Here to Stay (at least for now)
It seems to me that with the simplicity of creating and using QR code technology in learning that this technology is here to stay for the long-term. As we begin to move more into the area of paperless training and using technologies such as tablets and smartphones for use in partnership with training, QR codes will be a very beneficial solution to use.
Have you had experiences with using QR codes in your training design & development? Feel free to share your experiences.
Thursday, March 7, 2013
I recently came across an infographic about determining the costs of a custom e-learning course. From my years of experience doing e-learning, I think the graphic is dead on. To summarize, it lists three important factors that determine the cost of an e-learning course:
- Graphics and multimedia
- Level of interactivity
- Instructional design time
Out of curiosity, I took a poll at my organization to determine the level of complexity of each area used in our projects. The consensus I found is that instructional design is often the most complex. My area of the organization deals with a lot of technical information so this is not surprising. However, I would venture to say that most e-learning projects are instructional design heavy when it comes to cost.
So why would I say this? Instructional designers are the foot soldiers when it comes to creating learning. They are often asked to wear many hats but their expertise is instructional design and that is where most of their time goes.
Wearing many hats is so common that organizations often don't hire the expertise they need for the other two areas that effect the cost of e-learning: graphics and multimedia and level of interactivity. That is why most e-learning is weak in that area. It's not because instructional designers don't think about these things that they get omitted, it's because they often don't have the time or required expertise to achieve them.
Graphics and multimedia often requires a graphic designer or expert in video production. Creating interactivity often requires the use of Flash or other skills that a web developer would have. Organizations often don't hire the required skill sets to excel in these areas. They either don't budget for it or don't know how to find the skills needed. I personally think the skill set required is an emerging field in the workplace.
This gap leaves well designed e-learning without the support of informative graphics and other multimedia. Instead, stock graphics or poorly produced video ends up being used. Sometimes multimedia is "repurposed" for the e-learning but it ends up not being the ideal presentation to the learner.
Interactivity that engages the learner is left out. Learning through discovery is not provided. The e-learning often becomes a page turner with lots of reading or voice overs that drown the learner in words and voice. "When can I click the next button again?" they ask.
So I have to ask:
- Are you really serious about effective e-learning?
- Why put all the instructional design resources into a project but then leave it lackluster and disengaging?
I think those are valid reasons e-learning often comes up short. However, I think there is something else. Most organizations have not fully committed to e-learning. They understand the cost savings aspects of it. But they have found it difficult to make it even close to as engaging as face-to-face training because of a lack of initiative.
Most learning and development organizations know how to win at face-to-face. But e-learning? Are we really doing what it takes to win?
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Thursday, February 7, 2013
I remember the first time I heard the term SCORM. I was a software developer working on a quizzing product that needed to export data to a variety of e-learning systems. It was suggested we should support SCORM. So I researched but quickly got lost in the minutia of details and acronyms -- AICC, CMI, SCO, XML, ECMAScript, manifest, packaging, and API. On top of that, I found out about the ADL initiative and the Department of Defense involvement in the specification. Woah! Wait a minute. What are we talking about here? I just want to get my content to my customer in a form that they can use it!
It turns out I had to know most of that stuff for my job. But most people producing e-learning content can rest assured that they don't need to know these details. You just need to know that e-learning content sometimes needs to be exported to SCORM so that it can be used in an LMS. Here's everything you need to know about the anatomy of a SCORM module. The version of SCORM doesn't matter for this simple explanation.
2. SCORM Run-Time
3. SCORM Package
But for those curious, this is the "language" the e-learning module uses to communicate with the LMS. The run-time code is used to send messages to the LMS like "the course was started", "the learner scored 80% on the quiz", and "the learner has mastered this material". And vice-versa, the LMS can use the run-time language to tell the e-learning module information like the learner's name or a bookmark that tells the e-learning module where the learner stopped previously.
Thursday, January 24, 2013
By Dean Hawkinson
Recently, I had the opportunity to design my first paperless classroom course, which used iPads to support its delivery. The purpose of using the iPads was to replace paper-based workbooks and job aids, and provide learners with easy access to training resources. As a designer, it stretched me into areas of project management that I had never experienced before. In addition, some of the feedback that we received from instructors was that it stretched the instructor in many new directions as well.
In this post, I will make some suggestions based on the successes and challenges that go along with this method of delivering classroom-based training. Let’s start with what I have experienced as important requirements.
From the experience that I had, there are several things we needed to include when developing instructor-led training for iPad delivery.
- An interactive workbook for taking notes – We wrote a storyboard for what should be in the participant workbook, including places for participant note-taking. You can use tools such as Adobe InDesign and Adobe Acrobat to create direct links to online sites and places to take notes. Participants can then use Adobe Reader on the iPad to view the workbook which provides several options for viewing and sharing the document.
- Create a way to save the document with notes – Adobe Acrobat allowed participants to save their document with the notes they entered. They either e-mailed it to their own e-mail addresses or moved it over to an app such as Evernote to e-mail, if their own e-mail is not available on the iPad.
- Use new technologies to obtain documents – We placed documents such as the workbook and other job aids on an online server and used a free QR code generator to create a QR code. Placing the QR code on the PowerPoint in the classroom allows participants to use the iPad camera and code scanner app to scan the QR code and obtain the documents.
Below are some of the successes we observed that can go along with using iPads for training delivery.
- Saving on printing costs and logistics – Using the iPads for delivery cut printing costs and the logistics of printing.
- Taking advantage of linking directly to the internet for research – Using the iPads for delivery allowed us to write some great activities that involved researching on the internet and directly linking to websites right from the iPad workbook.
- Using the technology for hands on activities – If you are training job-related skills that use the iPad, you can take advantage of some great hands-on activities to learn these skills. Instructors can even invest around $25 in a VGA cable to project the iPad in front of the class to demonstrate these skills.
- Reducing the need to have PCs in the classrooms – Since trainers can travel with iPads, you can purchase a set of iPads for each instructor for which they will be responsible. There is therefore no need for PCs in the classroom.
Here are some of the challenges you may run into with using iPads for training.
- Cost – A budget needs to be allocated to purchase the iPads for the classroom. Of course, if you are doing a lot of training, this cost will be offset by the savings in print material costs.
- Logistics of ordering, provisioning and preparing iPads for class – Depending on what you are teaching, there is a lot of preparation that goes along with iPad delivery. The instructors need to take care of loading required apps and setting them up for use in the classroom. If the iPads are Wi-Fi only, they need to ensure that their classroom has Wi-Fi available and that there are no issues. If they are 3G or 4G, ensuring that the sim cards work can get a signal is important. Most of this functionality only has to be done once, however, in preparation for using them.
- Traveling with the iPads – Traveling with the iPads can be a challenge, presenting issues with airport security and taking responsibility for them during travel. There are special cases available for purchase to travel with the iPads, which can help with this.
Feedback from Participants in Pilot Courses
Feedback from participants and instructors on this delivery approach, from my experience with a pilot course , was postive. Participants like being able to use Adobe Reader to take notes directly in an electronic workbook and e-mail it to their personal e-mail accounts. Instructors like not having to deal with paper workbooks. In both cases, the apps allow note-taking and highlighting just as they do in a paper workbook.
For instructors, they have to really pay attention to where the participants are in their workbook as they facilitate, even more than in a normal paper-based class. Designers can help with this by ensuring workbook page numbers are in the instructor guide and also on the PowerPoint slides.
Have you had experience with using iPads in instructor-led training? Feel free to share your experiences.
Thursday, January 17, 2013
We use Lectora a good bit for eLearning development. As with any tool, it’s always helpful to see tips and tricks from others that you can add to your own projects. If you're working with Lectora and need some assistance, here’s a list of helpful resources available online.
Official Resources from Trivantis
- Lectora University: Trivantis’s own collection of helpful resources including recordings of all past “Inspiration Wednesdays” webinars and downloadable course examples.
- Lectora Community Forum: A great place to ask questions and find answers to Lectora related questions.
- Official Lectora LinkedIn User Group: Another good place for Lectora questions and also networking with other Lectora users.
- 50 Time-Saving Tips for Lectora Development
- Lectora Hotkeys list: Quick reference for keyboard shortcuts
- Full list of E-Learning Uncovered Lectora resources
- A Few Lectora Tips
- Using Lectora to Sync Audio
- Slide in Text with Lectora
- Creating a Smart Next Button in Lectora
- Yes, your Captivate Sim can drive your Lectora Course
- A Deep Dive into the Lectora Project File
- Using Variables to Restrict the Next Button
- Unlocking the Power of Lectora Variables
- Incorporating the Learner’s Name into your Lectora Course
- Saving Time with Lectora Text Styles
- Extending Lectora with an iFrame
- Using Custom Progress Bars in Lectora
- Custom Lectora Video Controls
- Lectora Best Practices Part 1: Optimizing Preferences
- Lectora Best Practices Part 2: Working with actions and variables
- Lectora Best Practices Part 3: Working with Text
- Overview of ReviewLink: Product review of the features of Lectora’s built in review tool
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Temptation #1: Using a PowerPoint Mindset
The first temptation that leads to bad e-learning is using a PowerPoint presentation mindset and applying it to the e-learning world. Its tempting because the mindset is familiar, requires little thought, and takes less time. And unfortunately all those reasons are things that your manager may support. However, it stinks for your learners and results in less knowledge transfer when all is said and done.
Which do you enjoy more in a face-to-face classroom setting?
Consider that e-learning is usually taken by the same people that would be in a face-to-face classroom. Take a moment to empathize with these folks by asking the same question for an e-learning course.
When you convert PowerPoint slides directly into e-learning slides, you are simply keeping your learners bored and disengaged.
Temptation #2: Ignoring the Visuals
This temptation is difficult because words are easy but multimedia is hard. After all, we have keyboards for words. All the letters are nicely laid out and we know how to find them. Graphics, on the other hand, are hard. Many require hours of hard work or require being on site with a camera. But resist the temptation to avoid them. Remember the old adage "a picture speaks a thousand words."
Photos and graphics are very important to learners. They can set the mood for the course. They can create memories and associations for learners. Besides, learners get barraged with enough words already through corporate email, HR and IT notices, job aids, and memos.
Find and use multimedia. Here are a few things you can do to get in the habit of using more graphics:
- Buy graphics! Stop being cheap and subscribe to a multimedia library like ShutterStock.com. You learners will thank you!
- Use PowerPoint or other simple tools to create simple graphics and visuals.
- Don't be afraid of the camera. Start snapping. Make a library of photos you can use in all projects. Make a special trip to take photos for individual projects.
Temptation #3: Getting Approval from the Wrong "Right" Person
You are dependent on the subject matter expert. But the SME you are assigned to work with may not understand how learning works, the importance of the project, or the fact that you know nothing about their area of expertise. Frankly, the person may not even care about the final outcome of the project. The temptation may be to get approval from this person because they are assigned to your project. However, your learners will thank you if you find someone who really has their best interest in mind.
Trust your intuition and experience to tell you whether or not you are getting the feedback you need. Try the following techniques to make sure you get the appropriate person to look at your project:
- The SME tends to agree with everything - then engage them further to see if they really have looked at it. Trust but verify that they are doing their part. You don't want any surprises at the end of the project.
- The SME seems disinterested - you will have to be extra persistent. If they simply aren't giving you the time you need ask them who would be good to delegate the task to.
- Talk to some of the managers of your target learners - What do they think is important to cover? Do they agree with the SME? If not, arrange a quick group meeting to get everyone on the same page.
Temptation #4: Assuming the e-Learning will work Perfectly
Most e-learning development tools you'll use will have several ways to "play" the content. Let's take Adobe Captivate as an example. You can play a page right in the editing tool, you can test several pages at a time, or you can test the whole project. Plus, you can publish the project to test. Over time you'll find that the project may not work the same in all of those scenarios. Ultimately, you want to test a fully published project independent of the development tool. Even better, test the project directly in the LMS to verify the scoring, completion, and any advanced tinkering you've done works.
Resist the temptation to assume if it works for you, it works for everyone else. Here are some things in particular you should test for each project:
- The Learner's Navigation - If the learner takes a course but can't complete it, you've got a major problem. Test the navigation to make sure the learner can get to where they need to go. This includes any next and previous buttons, home buttons, and access to the quiz or survey.
- Quizzing - The learner needs to get the score they earn and it needs to be reported correctly to the LMS. In particular, test to make sure the course completion is set correctly depending on the quiz results.
- Animations and Audio Syncing - The animations should match the audio. Avoid the temptation to skip through the audio. Listen to it and verify the animations take place. Make sure animations are not inadvertently paused by other elements on the page like buttons waiting for a click event (Captivate users know what I'm talking about).
- Links and Attached Files - Don't disappoint the learner with a broken link. Links may not work like you expect them once a project is published or put on the LMS. Who among us hasn't accidentally linked to a file on your computer? Make sure the URLs are accurate and open up in a NEW window if required. Make sure attached files are included in the imsmanifest and SCORM package being uploaded to the LMS.
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
In perusing the blogosphere, Twitter, and Facebook at the turn of the new year, I noticed several expressions of relief that the world has not ended and resolutions to make 2013 the best year yet. For many, this includes trying new things.
The posts from this blog in 2012 offered advice for trying out new eLearning authoring tools and other technologies as well as advice for trying out various instructional approaches. If you're interested in trying something new with your eLearning projects this year, take a look at how the past year of posts from this blog might help...
Want to explore Tin Can API?
Training practitioners have been abuzz about the possibilities Tin Can API might hold. Check out Building the Next Generation of SCORM for an introduction to Tin Can, or review Realizing the Potential of the Tin Can API to participate in a discussion about its potential pros and cons.
Want to develop your technical skills?
Lectora has been one of the most frequently recurring topics on the blog this year. To sharpen your Lectora skills, take a peek at the posts linked below.
- ReviewLink: Online Review Tool for Lectora
- A Few Lectora Tips
- Extending Lectora with an iFrame
- Lectora Best Practices Part 1 – Optimizing Preferences
- Lectora Best Practices Part 2 - Variables and Actions
- Lectora Best Practices Part 3 – Using Text
- 3 Things I'm Looking Forward To In Lectora Version 11
- Saving Time with Lectora Text Styles
Of course, Lectora isn’t the only tool out there. Those looking to further their Captivate skills can benefit from these posts:
- Tips for Importing from PowerPoint to Captivate
- Using Variable Flags to Provide Feedback in Adobe Captivate
- Developer's Perspective of Adobe Captivate 6
Or maybe you’d like to acquaint yourself with some different tools...
- 3 Defining Features of Articulate Storyline
- Discovering Adobe InDesign for eLearning
- 3 Ways to Use Adobe Connect
Anticipate dabbling in audio and video? Perhaps the posts below can help you get started.
Want to take steps to make eLearning easier to use?
While a fluency in authoring tools can go a long way, making eLearning user-friendly is just as important. Help ensure that your eLearning doesn’t distract from learning with the help of the posts below.
- Designing eLearning for Cognitive Ease
- Is Your eLearning Effective for Dummies?
- Keeping eLearning Readable – Visual Readability
- Using White Space for Clutter-Free eLearning
- Keep Learners Fit by Controlling Calorie Intake
- Call to Action Items in eLearning
- Designing eLearning for Cognitive Ease
Want to renew your focus on instructional design?
Instructional design is at the heart of learning. While an attractive visual design and eye-catching interactions can help create a positive first impression of a lesson, its ability to teach learners to perform is what matters most.
The following posts can help you brush up on principles of learning psychology:
- Designing eLearning for Schema Theory
- Teach Learners to Use Job Aids
- Accomplish Spaced Learning with eLearning
- Practice Early and Coach the Details Later
- Personify eLearning
If you’re thinking about tinkering in a gaming approach to instruction, the posts below might help.
- Gaming with the Nine Events of eLearning
- What does the 80's movie WarGames tell us about learning games?
To help you assess learning through eLearning interactivity and/or knowledge assessments, take a peek at these posts:
What are your professional development goals for 2013?
If there’s something you intend to focus on that isn’t mentioned here, please tell us about it! (If you do, we just might write about it.) For more resources, you could also take a peek at the year in review posts for 2011 and 2010.
Happy new year!