Nuts and Bolts: Crash Course for New eLearning DesignersMarch 6, 2018
Jane Bozarth offers a crash course for new eLearning designers, highlighting common problems that could be encountered and providing resources to help.
Dr. Jane Bozarth is the director of research for The eLearning Guild. She is the author of ELearning Solutions on a Shoestring; Better than Bullet Points: Creating Engaging Elearning with PowerPoint; From Analysis to Evaluation: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Trainers; and Social Media for Trainers, coming out in August 2010. She is a popular conference speaker and is frequently found at both live and online international events. She also serves as one of the moderators of the popular weekly Twitter event #lrnchat, Thursdays at 8:30 PM ET. She describes herself on Twitter profile as a rabid, feral, and tribal learner, World's Oldest Millenial, Positive Deviant, and Constructive Heretic. Jane Bozarth and her husband live in Durham, NC, USA.
Jane Bozarth offers a crash course for new eLearning designers, highlighting common problems that could be encountered and providing resources to help.
Dr. Dee Fink, founding director of the instructional development program at the University of Oklahoma, offers “Five Principles of Good Course Design.”
“Working out loud” doesn’t mean broadcasting every moment of every day, or crowing about every accomplishment, or only showing final, polished work products. Rather, it’s a way of capturing the tacit knowledge that’s so hard to nail down: not just what we do but how we get things done. Here are some ways to capture that.
eLearning designers and developers spend a lot of time on assessments, particularly things like quizzes, knowledge checks, and tests. It’s easy to fall into blame-the-learner mode when they don’t do well. But sometimes, easily fixed design issues are the culprits.
Social tools evolve quickly, and keeping up is a fun and sometimes daunting challenge. Are you one of those who can see past a tool’s usual use and find an interesting, different twist to take, one that can inspire learning pursuits? Here are some examples.
How many ways do workers voluntarily, intentionally learn? There are more ways than conferences! From books to YouTube to social media, the list can get pretty long when you really think about it. Jane walks you through some methods, some examples, and maybe even some inspiration.
Over the last 15 years, eLearning has evolved, from Authorware to PowerPoint to the proprietary tools and interactive, experiential, and social formats that we have today. The good news is that, while tools have come and gone and possibilities have expanded beyond imagining, some things haven’t changed. Jane summarizes the best of the lessons we’ve learned since the early 2000s.
The film and game industries have known it forever: Music is a critical part of user experience, creating atmosphere, supporting memory, and cueing emotion. As a designer of learning experiences, are you using music as a strategic design element? Here are some ideas for adding it to your toolbox.
One of the persistent challenges in our work is finding the line between just enough and too much. Every designer knows the difficulty in staying focused on the tight bits of training that will enable or support performance in ordinary circumstances. But how do you help the learner focus when the learner is in a state of sheer panic?
This month, Jane looks at the importance of concept in eLearning design: the use of themes, and how they can support or sometimes harm learning. Themes can make or break an eLearning course (for the learner). For the designer, a theme can help move the work of layout and visual design along. Here’s how to come up with a theme to reinforce learning, and avoid themes that do just the opposite!
There’s a lot of conversation lately about working out loud and the benefits it brings to individual workers. At the same time, however, it’s a tough sell to make to leaders in some organizations. Here are the five chief benefits to the organization, explained in a way that’s hard to argue with!
What is “social learning”? This is a question that evidently stymies a lot of learning and development teams and their managers, but it need not. Some groups figure it out, and some groups fail at it. If you want to know what makes the difference, Jane shows you in her column this month. By the way, have you seen any Pokémon trainers out on the street today?
In the classroom, a good trainer can adjust instruction on the fly if it isn’t working for the employees, but this is a luxury not available to the eLearning designer. Here are some common issues in converting classroom training to online, and ideas that will help you make the online version realistic and relevant to the needs of workers.
Among trainers, a common approach to deficient outcomes is to focus on finding and fixing the causes of the deficiencies. Yet in most communities, even where most members fail, there will be individuals or groups that succeed. An effective alternative approach is to find out what those who succeed are doing and to help others do the same. Here is an introduction to techniques that work!
Participant chat is a tool included in most virtual classroom products, yet it is underutilized. If you think of it as just a place for participants to chat, offer commentary, or ask questions, you are missing a golden opportunity to engage your audience! Here are seven incredibly productive ways to encourage the reluctant and avoid the “Anyone? Anyone?” moments.
How many issues do you face in delivering training to your organization? People widely dispersed geographically? Lack of learner availability? Employees who have to be covered across work shifts? No travel funds? If you aren’t using virtual meeting software to meet these challenges, maybe you should. Drop “webinar” from your vocabulary, and learn to use the virtual whiteboard! Here’s how!
In Cargo Cult Training, the designer or the leader replicates what he saw teachers do, capturing the artifacts of instruction without understanding what’s underneath. This happens in classrooms and in online instruction. Why does it happen, and what can you do about it (or avoid falling into it yourself)? Here are some answers.
Does an instructional designer or other training practitioner need a specialized degree in order to work effectively? There’s a lot of debate about this. You should read this article and Jane’s suggestions, and decide what works for you. There’s not just one answer.
Continuing the discussion of Richard Mayer’s “SOI” model (select, organize, integrate), this month’s column focuses on organizing information into meaningful wholes. Most slide-based authoring tools and old habits get us to think in terms of bullet points, but there are better ways! Here’s how to re-think content and concept information.
A constant challenge with eLearning (and face-to-face) courses is managing “overwhelm:” too often the learner is inundated with content and ideas and bullets and more content. Here’s how to select the really important information and present it in a way that helps learners focus and make sense of what they are seeing.
“Which tool should I use?” If you hate to hear that “it all depends,” this article may give you a new perspective on that answer: “The best tools are the ones you’ll use, that meet your particular goals and needs—and the ones your audience likes.”
In the four years since Jane’s column “Social Media for Learning” appeared here, the popular use of social media and tools that make it easy to generate and share images has exploded. This month’s column looks at some of the new ways you might extend your own practice through use of these social tools.
Sometimes we find ourselves in a situation where we can either not do something at all, or we can figure out how to do it with no money. Many times this happens when it comes to finding art for our eLearning productions. Here are some tricks that will help you make the most of what you’ve got—for no money!
Accessibility in eLearning may be something that’s just isn’t on your radar—yet. Your eLearning materials should be accessible to everyone, including those with challenges like low vision and blindness, hearing loss and deafness, learning disabilities, and mobility problems. Here is a quick rundown on things you should be addressing in your design standards, and some help getting started.
The story of the three princes of Serendip is more than an entertaining fable. It illustrates the limits of formal training, and the value of being able to learn something valuable from information that just came your way. You may not be looking for a lame, one-eyed camel that is missing a tooth and carrying an unusual cargo, but you might also learn something valuable from this column.
It’s a mistake that happens all the time: We lose sight of the objective and add in interesting bits, extraneous fun. Or we spend time teaching the wrong skill. Here are a couple of cautionary tales about the need to be careful when you define your outcomes.
Editing your own work or the work of your subject matter experts (SMEs) is an important activity for instructional designers, but it takes focus to do it well. Here are some tips that will help you become a ruthless editor!
Beliefs about learners can show up in an instructional designer’s work, often unwittingly. Sometimes it’s the beliefs of an SME or the client, sometimes it’s the designer’s assumptions. In online content converted from classroom materials, it can be the original designer’s unchallenged beliefs. This month, Jane looks at some ways assumptions and beliefs affect design decisions.
At DevLearn 2010, John Seely Brown urged each of us to “expand your surface area”—in other words, to stretch our personal bubble of experience and ideas to other domains, beyond immediate work interests. Here are some suggestions that might prove useful in helping you push past the boundaries of your daily line of sight.
In the United States Marine Corps, “improvise, adapt, overcome” has become an adopted motto in many units. It should be our motto in eLearning, considering all the times things don’t go the way we planned or the way we wish they would. Sometimes you just gotta punt.
Textbooks and graduate courses on training and development sometimes suggest practices that are too good to be true in the real world where instructional designers live. Here are seven tips that are better matched to the challenges of our work.
Needs assessment is critical to success in instructional design, but it is often left out for no good reason. (Expediency is not a sufficient excuse.) Here are a baker’s dozen of questions to ask.
“What gets measured gets done” and “If you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it” are two management maxims that have been around so long nobody is sure who said them first. But what is certain is that it’s not as simple as just starting to measure something. Here are two questions that will help you avoid bad measures.
Professional development—our own, personal, professional development—is one of the most important things we can invest in. This isn’t a matter of paying money, necessarily, but of paying time and attention on a regular, even daily, basis to consciously becoming better at what you do. How? Reflective practice. Reading this column could be the best thing you do for yourself today.
One of the never-ending quests in eLearning is the zero-cost, 10-minute-to-build solution. As our tools and technologies evolve, this may not be the impossible dream that it once seemed to be. Jane explores lean eLearning and the tools to create it that are available to you today.
For several years, Jane has been intrigued by the possibilities that doing better at showing our work could have for organizations, for each other, and for our own professional development. In this column on the practice of showing others what you are doing, she gives you concrete examples and compelling reasons for working out loud.
For a change of pace, here’s a look at the new school of medicine building at Duke University. There’s plenty of technology, but it’s secondary to the learning experience that it supports. What would you do if money were no object? What would you do if you had no money but you had a vision?
How can you spark a conversation between 12,000 employees in 66 countries … simultaneously? Kimberly- Clark did it, and it worked because they recognized that if you want people to really connect via social tools you’ll allow room for human conversation. Just like in “real life.” Read about the experience, and the unexpected outcomes here!
The rise of social media and the accompanying interest in social learning is generating a lot of talk about community building. Many people voice similar concerns in these conversations, and at the same time there are many things that never come up as topics for discussion. Here are some suggestions for keeping the never-heard items from killing a community.
One of the most basic, seemingly most simple, elements of instruction—giving directions—seems like it ought to be so easy. Unfortunately, “simple” often turns out to be anything but “easy.” Giving clear instructions is something of an art, and here are some resources to support mastering it.
Video plays a big part in classroom instruction; instructors lead learners through discussion and processing of the content. But video in eLearning is most often passive: no discussion or processing. By setting the stage, encouraging comments, asking for reaction, and giving the camera to the learner, you can turn video back into an engaging, socially facilitated activity. Here’s how!
We know, as designers, that a bulleted, text-heavy display of information is neither interesting nor compelling to most learners. What would make for an interesting or surprising look? What would break beyond the usual linear, bullets-in-a column structure? Consider the alternatives from designer Tracy Parish suggested in this month’s column.
A good treatment moves a program from being a presentation to being an effective way to influence workplace performance. Here are two outstanding examples of better-than-good treatment that don’t depend on technology, money, or skill with any tool. This column could seriously change the direction of careers.
Steve Jobs once made the observation that diverse experience is important. Without that diversity, he said, “A lot of people … don't have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one's understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.” Here’s how to gain some perspective.
Good practice is made up of work, and thought, and mistakes, and time. Things that look easy in the hands of a skilled professional are often the end result of years of practice and experience. Jane offers some sobering thoughts about what it takes to make things look easy.
Change management is always a large part of introducing new tools and approaches. In fact, logic and talking points are seldom effective in dealing with resistance. It is important to understand the barriers to change and their predictable progression. Here are the barriers you can expect and the keys to getting past them.
We need new words. They might have to be neologisms, or even sniglets, but we are doing many things these days in ways that we never did them before, and so there are no words for them. Jane reflects on three such instances. Can you supply the words?
The matter of assessment is one of the most consistent problems I see with instructional design. The disconnect between workplace performance, course performance objectives, assessment, and content is a huge contributor to learner failure.” Here’s a simple way to fix that disconnect.
Does an eLearning production have to exemplify Hollywood-level production values and adhere to every criterion of good taste in order for people to learn from it? Maybe not. This month, Jane gets down to the heart of the matter—what it really takes for eLearning to be “good.”
Those who are closest to a situation can be the last to notice a problem when it exists. Experts can have trouble getting beyond their expertise to find a better solution. Here’s a way to solve the old instructional design paradox: When you can’t see the forest for the trees.
Concepts sometimes map over from one field of human activity to another, and the result of the juxtaposition can be a better understanding of both fields. In this month’s column, Jane offers her review of a new book about the music business in which she found many parallels to the learning and development business, and the insights she gained.
There is no magic formula for assessing the value of social interactions; no formula like “two hours on LinkedIn + four comments in groups = tangible outcomes for the organization.” So how do you know time spent using social media isn’t wasted? Jane has some ideas you can use.
Storyboarding your eLearning program makes a real difference in the quality of eLearning. It helps you organize your thoughts, ensures logical flow, contributes to reduced costs, and provides an excellent way to test your ideas. Storyboarding will also support branching and simulations, eliminating the “click here to continue” linear pattern typical of boring, ineffective eLearning.
Progress in media brings new challenges for instructional designers. Where just five short years ago we struggled with authoring tools and content management, we now face new demands for making programs more inclusive of learners, leveraging informal learning, and building a farther reach for the L&D department. Here are your keys to the architecture and organization skills needed!
We all know that people hate change, and yet we are continually surprised that decision-makers have (apparently insuperable) objections to our ideas for applying technology. Maybe it’s our approach that’s the problem. Jane offers some ways to improve our pitches.
Following up on last month’s column (“Build or Buy?”), here’s practical advice on dealing with the common misunderstandings of in-house decision makers about outsourcing. Read it, see it, try it, and know what you want.
Formal design process gets a lot of attention, but not every problem requires the full treatment. Consider first what your client needs, before you start working on what the process flow chart requires, and when the problem is simple, keep the solution simple. Jane offers the key to remedies for performance issues.
Instead of asking how to manage informal learning and which tools to use, ask yourself whether you are inviting interaction, and how. Here are some excellent ways to make informal learning more visible to both managers and employees, and to invite interaction and develop something more akin to a partnership with your learners.
Even though it’s a digital world for readers of this e-zine, most of us still enjoy good old analog professional conferences and the opportunity to speak face-to-face with our colleagues and heroes. And even more – the secret love of many of us is browsing physical books in the conference bookstores! Jane suggests some great tomes to browse and add to your resources.
What's the difference between social media and social learning? How are you using each of them in your organization? This month's article addresses these questions and provides an overview of The eLearning Guild's new Report, Social Media for Learning.
There are heated debates about whether every instructional designer should have formal training, and about the pros and cons of academic instructional design programs. But in the meantime, you have to get the work done. Here are eight basic points that every instructional designer should commit to memory.
In Learning Solutions Magazine, a number of authors have suggested using stories to support learning. Sometimes managers object to the idea of using stories as being too touchy-feely. Here’s a new way to look at the process, and some words to replace “story.”
Have you heard of Bloom’s Taxonomy, the system for getting your learning objectives to specify measureable outcomes? Here’s a quick summary and a great job aid for instructional designers.
Most designers know that eLearning must engage the learner through activity. This does not mean simply having them choose the “Next” button, and it does not necessarily require offering an interactive simulation. The answer can be very simple, as Jane shows in her column.
Moving an existing classroom course to online delivery is the way many eLearning initiatives get started. It is also, unfortunately, the way that many initiatives get off to a bad start, or even fail. Jane provides great tips for successful transformation of learning – you can apply them to your first effort, or to any conversion project.
Trainers and instructional designers have professional development needs too! Social media tools can be as powerful for solving your information and skill needs as they are for your learners’ needs. Here is the way to develop your own Personal Learning Network. It’s simple, and it’s free!
One of the most important things instructional designers do is interview subject matter experts (SMEs). It is also one of the most difficult things to do well. Jane offers insight from her experience to help you improve your results.
Every instructional designer knows that it’s important to engage the learner. With certain types of content, this is easier said than done, and sometimes our own design standards work against us. Jane shows you how to avoid boring your learners stiff.
Thought and creativity can turn weak assessments and interactions into feedback that is actually useful to the learner. Here is some practical wisdom about what helps, what supports and what guides, and what supports gain – and how to avoid doing harm.
Simple design basics can make or break a program. Choices related to fonts, placement of content on a screen, and application of an organization’s standards like number of screens matter. Jane tackles color issues this month.
Evaluation is something that every instructional designer talks about, but few actually do. This may be because designers only know about the Kirkpatrick “Levels.” Here are two alternatives that may be far more practical.
Cognitive overload – too much information – is one type of problem for learners. Another type of problem that designers can create for learners is too many distractions from too many tools. Here’s how to recognize the problem, and what to do about it.
Designers often overload learners with information, hurting learning and learner motivation, and thereby undercutting the very thing we say we want to accomplish. A designer can avoid this by understanding cognitive load theory and memory; in particular, the concepts of working memory and long term memory. Here’s some applied theory you can put to work immediately!
“When developing and launching a new training initiative – traditional classroom, virtual classroom, asynchronous, or a mix – or suggesting a training solution for an individual worker or group, it’s vital to gain management commitment. As with so many issues in training and development, this is another of those “easier said than done” challenges.
Good practice in instructional design means being aware of cognitive overload and avoiding it – in other words, not giving learners more than they can handle, and certainly not more than they will use. This month, Jane gives you a strategy (and a visualization!) for dealing with the desire to include everything and the kitchen sink in your e-Learning design.
“I wish that the ‘e-Learning’ business had started with this book … before online training as an industry managed to replicate the very worst elements of the traditional classroom experience. I wish this book as a starter gift: a new person starting with this would not accept flying lines of text supported by word-for-word narration as anything resembling a learning experience.”
Some of the most frequently asked questions among instructional designers are the ones dealing with text, images, and narration and how best to use them together. There are many examples of combinations that do not work, but not so many explanations of the principles behind making the right choices. Here is a simple explanation of three of the most important principles.
“ … a readable, solid, extensive, exhaustive, approachable work tightly focused on the position and needs of the learner in the learning experience. Much content focuses on accessibility as it relates to assorted permanent or temporary impairments … but a good deal more of the book is germane to the user-first perspective of any learner.”
One of the most-discussed sessions at Learning Solutions 2010 was “The Great ADDIE Debate,” a conversation about the 21st-century relevance of the ADDIE process model (Analyze-Design-Develop-Implement-Evaluate), so often employed in instructional design. Rather than declare ADDIE dead, wouldn’t it make more sense to be sure that we are using it properly? Here’s a simple method to do just that.
Jay Cross and his friends have updated Jay’s unbook on informal learning, to reflect the movement of learning into the Internet Cloud. There are checklists, tools, images, charts, and provocative questions that bring the issue down to ground level.
This new addition to ASTD’s Infoline series is intended for American instructional designers who create instruction for delivery in another part of the world.
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