I intend this column to offer “nuts and bolts”-level help, particularly for those new to the field, many of whom came in through back doors like software development or program expertise. Each month I try to shine a new light on a design problem, or offer an overview of a popular learning theory or accepted practice, or suggest some ideas for personal development. My goal is to help point readers toward something that in some way improves practice, particularly things that are within our own reach, regardless of tools and budgets. A review of the 2011 “Nuts and Bolts” columns will, I hope, help to form some resolutions for practice in 2012.
1. I will leverage the value of surprise. Surprise in instruction is useful for grabbing or shifting attention and interrupting the lull caused by standard templates and interfaces. Judicious use of the “discrepant event” is particularly good for energizing the Dreaded Compliance Training. See http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/622/nuts-and-bolts-surprise
2. I will work to transform, not transfer, existing programs to other formats. Too often the move from traditional classroom to online, mobile or social-supported programs results in everything interesting and engaging being left behind. Often this results not in eLearning but in nothing more than “ePresentation.” Look at capturing the best elements of the existing program and adapting them for effective use elsewhere. Also, you may find a chance to make the new version better than the old. See http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/671/nuts-and-bolts-from-classroom-to-online-think-transform-not-transfer
3. I’ll use the human side of design in finding interesting treatments and narratives for my content rather than let the tool dictate the design. No magic authoring tool will do it for you: Moving from delivering content to creating engaging narratives is where art meets technical skill. Embedding the content into an engaging, meaningful context makes the learning experience more useful to the learner – and makes the work more interesting for you. See http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/723/nuts-and-bolts-whats-your-story.
4. I’ll work to nurture and build out my Personal Learning Network (PLN). Mine lives primarily on Twitter, as that’s where I’m most comfortable and where I find I get the most value the quickest. Find yours by looking for conversations that interest and stretch you. Try, too, to find people who are working a little bit outside your sphere, or who challenge your thinking and help expand your reach. Important: you get back from your PLN what you put in. See http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/659/nuts-and-bolts-building-a-personal-learning-network--pln. Building an effective PLN can also serve as a means of curating content, to help you fulfill the next resolution, number 5.
5. I’ll make an effort to schedule time for professional reading once a week. The challenge here? It’ so easy not to do. If you’re prone to let books collect real dust on a shelf or virtual dust on an online wish list, start setting aside some blocks of time devoted to reading. For those fairly new to the field, some starter “required reading” books are listed at http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/782/nuts-and-bolts-required-reading . Also: the new world of social tools and mobile technologies is going to change traditional instruction forever, and will demand new skills from managers, designers and facilitators. Expand your surface area by sampling some reading from cultural and social anthropology, sociology, and cognitive science.
6. More partnership, less delivery. New tools enable social learning, collaboration, and shared learning to happen on a much larger scale. It’s not about just using new tools as publishing vehicles, though. A new role for many of us will be to help facilitate conversations, connect people and talent pools, and support groups and communities. We’ll need to get better at listening and not just telling, and help to make learning in organizations more visible. Toward this end, it’s critical that we find ways to invite and allow interaction. See http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/762/nuts-and-bolts-social-media-for-learning and http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/805/nuts-and-bolts-inviting-interaction
7. I will stop saying that learners want to be spoonfed and instead let them hold the spoon. Teaching doesn’t cause learning. Loading content onto slides, no matter how pretty those slides are, does not create an experience that will help learners learn. Find meaningful interactions and strategies that invite them to think rather than memorize, and engage with content (and, when possible, each other) rather than consume. See http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/688/nuts-and-bolts-let-the-learners-hold-the-spoon .