Bringing Instructional Design To Life: Lessons from 5211

This course has been challenging and has definitely changed the way I approach a training project. Early learnings came from systematically going through several rounds of analysis and needs assessments with the client. Although I do some needs analysis in my current role, I was missing out on the opportunity to gather critical information early in the project. By implementing some of the analysis questions from the course text and by seeing what we missed between the analysis and the development phase with our client for this course, I now have a pre-prepared assessment tool that I am confident will yield better results on the job.

The other lesson I learned over the past several weeks is that you benefit by sharing often and early with the client. When we did meet with our client, she was very forthcoming, provided great input, and was able to answer questions we had about the process. The problem was we did not meet with her often enough nor did we share developed content until we were very near the end of the course.  I think our course would have been even better if we had time to incorporate the client’s refinement requests. As it is, our course is good and meets all the requirements, but it may be looking the corporate look and feel the client would have preferred.

The biggest take-a-way from this course for me is learning more about using an LCMS. In my current role 90% of the content I develop is online, self-directed training for managers. I create the courses in DreamWeaver using HTML, CSS, XML, and Java script. Although we have some templates available to us, the process of creating everything outside an LCMS is time consuming and it is easy to make mistakes that are hard to find. For example, today I had to go through lines and lines of code looking for one missing <tag> that was preventing one element in my module not to work. I finally found the error, but lost half a day. Working in Canvas has shown me the benefit of using an LCMS where you can use built-in widgets and WYSIWYG interface to create training content. I also like that in an LCMS you can repurpose content and you can create workflows to help guide developers through the development process.

All in all this has been a great course and worth all the time and effort it took to create the final project. I want to give a special acknowledgement to my peers in team Corporate. Without the help of Cheri and Greg, I would not have made it through this course. And that is another lesson learned. It is easier to collaborate on large training projects and leverage the strengths of each individual team member. In our case Greg was the Canvas guru, I was the organization and documentation queen, and Cheri became a great subject-matter-expert for one of the primary content areas.  Thanks team!

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Dodging a Bullet: Lesson Learned

Over the past few weeks, the biggest lesson learned is the importance of identifying risks to the project during the analysis phase. After working on developing the course outline, my team discovered that the initial plan to create training to support internal processes at the client company had hit a roadblock. Several intellectual property a confidentiality constraints were going to prevent us fro accessing information and media we needed to fully develop the course content for our project. Our initial response was, “Oh we can’t develop two-thirds of the content, what do we do now.” After consulting with a tenured instructional designer and educator and brainstorming as a team, we landed on a solution that we felt met the needs of the client and the requirements of this project. Thankfully, when we presented the revised proposal to the client, she enthusiastically approved the new approach. The client decided to use our content as a pre-requisite for instructor-led workshops and stated that our course description actually exceeded her initial expectations. We dodged a big bullet, but in hindsight the stress and anxiety could have been avoided if we had thought about risks to the project earlier in the process. Lesson learned!

Speaking of learning, this week I took a learning styles inventory. The results are generally consistent with what I already know about myself. I am a interpersonal and interpersonal learner. While this may seem contradictory, it is in fact true. I am a person who is both introspective, needing to do things on my own and by myself, and relational, needing the energy and input of others to proceed.  There are aspects of learning that I accomplish better when I am in a quite place by myself. These tasks include writing, research, and any production related task. At the same time, there are things that I struggle with on my own and need the interaction and input from others to accomplish. These tasks include brainstorming, refining, and planning. The benefit of having these two learning styles is that I can easily adapt to just about any learning environment. Although it was not rated as high as the other learning styles, linguistic learning is was also indicated as a strong learning style on my assessment. I believe this is because of my early educational experiences. I went to parochial schools where the emphasis was on reading, linguistics, and writing. Whether this would have been a natural strength or not, I don’t know, but I do believe environment played a big part in the development of this learning style. Interestingly enough, I actually had a 0% rating in Naturalistic learning. I guess learning from nature is not something I have ever done. Overall, I believe there is some value to the individual in recognizing how they learn best. This empowers the individual to identify and create learning environments that are more likely to promote their individual success.

Learning Theory and Reflections

Learning theories help explain how researchers believe that humans acquire new knowledge and skills. One of the earliest learning theories is behaviorism. This theory suggests that learning occurs primarily through observation and response to environmental stimuli in the form of reward and punishment. The theory is based on observations and outcomes from research done by Pavlov and Skinner. In both cases the subjects (Pavlov’s dog and Skinner’s rat) learned new behaviors through conditioning. A good example of behaviorism in education is the use of positive and negative consequences when students are able to duplicate a task at the teacher’s direction.

In a classroom where behaviorism is practiced, a teacher may reward students who perform well with better grades and with praise. The parents of these students carry the reinforcement further by providing additional praise and possible monetary or other types of rewards. For students who perform poorly, the teacher provide corrective feedback and lower grades. With the expectation that students will work harder to avoid the negative consequence next time. Parents contribute to the negative reinforcement ideal by taking away privileges, providing criticism, and in some cases implementing other forms of punishment.

In reflecting on my own early childhood education, I did not experience anything other than behaviorism until the seventh grade. I attended private schools that utilized behaviorism strategies to accomplish the educational goals. Al of my teachers were directive and were quick to deliver punishment and praise based on my ability to carry out their instruction.

This I learned that even though there is lots of discussion about alternatives to behaviorism, when I look at the way my company evaluates training outcomes, it still seems to be rooted in behaviorism. We push training to learners, we force them to complete all of the activities in the lesson (even if the learner has prior knowledge), and we force then to take an exam and get a minimum passing score. This shows me that we have an opportunity to move beyond what has always been done in a standard educational setting and start looking for ways to help learners develop skills while maintaining a sense of agency and by interacting with each other.

Reflecting on past learning in this course, I was intrigued by the possibilities of the blended courses we read about in week four. At our company, we are starting to create more blended courses that use online content to supplement shorter instructor-led courses. We do this to reduce the amount of time learners have to spend away from the job and we also do it so that classroom activities can focus on practice and feedback rather than teaching the basics. I discovered trough week four’s assignment that discussing a blended approach is best done during the client needs assessment stage.

In week five, my biggest take-away is the importance of providing enough detail in the documentation you provide to the client. While you don’t want to overwhelm the client with the needs assessment or the project analysis worksheet, it is important to provide enough information for the client to fully understand the expected outcomes, and the time it will take to meet the client’s request. I spent a lot of time over the past few weeks updating project timelines, so I know first hand how important this information is not only for the client, but to keep myself on track as the developer. Especially since I am managing multiple development projects with close deadlines at the same time.

What is Canvas?

Three weeks into Instructional Design II and the hits just keep on rolling. One of the highlights of the week was confirming how important it is to have multiple conversations with the client in order to clarify their needs and ultimately create the best possible training product. The first week we developed a pre-analysis for our client. The client read the documentation and approved it; however, when we revisited the project and completed an second, more in-depth interview with the client, significant changes were made and we were able to get additional clarity.  Today we had a third interview with our client where we learned what type of interactions, evaluations, and assessments the client wants. And, we discussed the capabilities of the LCMS and which features appealed most to the client. The lesson learned is every time you meet with the client, the project expands and so does your ability to deliver a quality product.

But, the biggest lesson I learned this week was the power of Canvas. Prior to last night’s class, I had very limited exposure to authoring a course inside an LCMS. As an adjunct instructor, I was able to build a course in an LCMS using a framework or template that was provided by the College, so other than posting my syllabus, assignments, and grades, I didn’t use the tool very much. In my current role, we don’t use an LCMS. All of our content is built in HTML, SCORMed, and then published in our LMS. So, before last night, I was wondering and worrying about how our group was going to develop the content for our project. Needless to say, all the worry dissipated when I saw the power of Canvas. I am looking forward to exploring all the capabilities of Canvas and increasing my LCSM knowledge. Next year our company is implementing a new LCMS with a built-in authoring tool and I am confident that this course is going to place may well ahead of the learning curve.

Instructional Design II

This week marks the beginning of another course in the Learning Technologies Masters program at UNT. I am excited about this course for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that I want to continue learning ways to create engaging, online content in an efficient and effective manner. The second reason is because this course gets me one step closer to completion of the program. 🙂

Just like training projects I have managed in the real-word, this course took off fast with lots of deliverables. I have to admit, my first response was one of overwhelm, but after moving through this weeks assignments, I am confident that I can meet the demands of the course.

I started the week off by reading the first two chapters in the course textbook. The first chapter titled, What is this Instructional Design Stuff, was a nice review and reminds me that cutting corners in the instructional design process is not going to yield the best training products. Chapter two titled, Before You Do Anything: Pre-Instructional Design Activities, gave me an opportunity to self-assess how I am approaching the needs analysis stage of the training projects I currently manage. I realize that I have an opportunity to improve my organizational assessment skills. Often times the business sponsors think training is necessary, and the training development team  disagrees. I believe doing a more thorough organizational analysis can help the development team better understand what is driving the request and allows the development team to provide alternative solutions when training is not the best option. In my opinion, mastering the skills of analyzing and making viable recommendations elevates the role of the instructional design team to one of strategic partner with the business.

This week, I also learned how to facilitate a group meeting using Skype. I typically use WebEx, Blackboard, MeetMe, or Join.me for conferencing and screen sharing with others. I am not a big Skype user. This week I learned how to create an account, join a group call, and share my screen. The project team I am working on, “The Corporates,” was able to work together to create our pre-needs analysis in real-time. It was an enriching experience and saved us a lot of time. I am really enjoying the group aspect of this class.

So as you can see, I am off to a great start. Stay tuned for future updates on how this class is progressing.

Resources

Piskurich, George M. (2015-01-20). Rapid Instructional Design: Learning ID Fast and Right (p. 15). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

The Harper Collins eBook Controversy

Five years ago Harper Collins publishing company changed its ebooks licensing terms for libraries. This change in licensing terms led to heated discussions between the publishing world, libraries, and library patrons. In an open letter to librarians, Josh Marwelll, the Harper Collins CEO, stated that the changes in their licensing terms were designed to find a way to make it reasonable for publishers, equitable for writers, and cost effective for libraries to make ebooks available to library patrons (Marwell, 2011). Before the changes, libraries purchased ebooks for a fee, just like hardcopy books, and then lent the ebook out to one patron at a time (Bosman, 2011). The library could lend the ebook out an unlimited amount of times with no additional fees. Harper Collins changed this by establishing a policy that limits libraries to lending an ebook 26 times. Then, to continue lending the ebook, the library has to pay a new fee. What may have seemed like a small change from Harper Collins was perceived as a game changer by many in the library community (Bosman, 2011).

As publishers made more e-books available for circulation through libraries, and more and more patrons started borrowing ebooks, publishers began to realize that the traditional pricing structure may not be in their best interest. Libraries felt that there should be no difference between pricing for a book regardless of the book’s format due to the role of the library in society. The mission of the library is to preserve written material over time, to provide free access to content to library patrons, and to help build a sense of community (Vacarro, 2014). Publishers say that hardcopy books provide the type of traction that supports the mission of the library, while ebooks do not. People access ebooks from anywhere and in some cases a library patron who uses ebooks exclusively, may never visit the local library. This type of activity does not create community or draw people to the library. This, according to the publishers, is one reason why there should be different licensing agreements for ebooks.

Since ebooks began growing in popularity, libraries and publishers have struggled to find a way to make the lending of e-books equitable for all parties involved (Lambert, 2015). Not only do more and more patrons desire ebooks, library systems that serve several libraries can give unlimited access to ebooks to library patrons from a wider region. Publishers feel that this limits their revenue stream for ebooks since potential buyers can simply download free copies of books from services like OneDrive, 3M, and Axis 360 using their library cards. Libraries make ebooks available to patrons through these third-party providers via the Internet and the subsequent decrease in consumer sales means that profits and royalties to writers and publishers diminish even though demand for the content continues to rise.

Today many publishers have licensing fees in place for ebooks or charge libraries more for a copy of an ebook than they do a consumer. Harper Collins may have started the practice, but today it is common place. Random House charges libraries 3–4 times the hardcover price for an ebook. Harper Collins charges libraries a license fee per ebook that must be renewed after 26 loans. MacMillan charges libraries a fee that entitles the library to lend the ebook to patrons for 2 years or 52 lends, whichever comes first. Penguin Group and Simon and Schuster both license ebooks to libraries for a one year period. Whether you agree with Harper and Collins’ original decision to change the pricing structure for ebooks, the fact is most publishers have followed suit and this practice is not likely to change.

After reading post from classmates, other Internet bloggers, and the articles reviewed for this assignment, I stick by my original position. Publishers are within their rights to setup reasonable fees for ebooks. It protects the publishers, the writers, and ensures that more and more e-book titles are released to libraries for my reading pleasure.

References

Bosman, J.(2011). Publishers and libraries struggle over terms of e-books. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/15/business/media/15libraries.html

Lambert, T.(2015. Why libraries win: Library lending vs. e-book subscription services. Public Libraries Online. Retrieved from http://publiclibrariesonline.org/2015/10/why-libraries-win-library-lending-vs-e-book-subscription-services/

Marwell, J. (2011). Open letter to librarians. Library Love Fest. Retrieved from http://www.librarylovefest.com/2011/03/open-letter-to-librarians.html

Vaccaro, A. (2014). Why it’s difficult for your library to lend ebooks. Boston.com. Retrieved from https://www.boston.com/news/technology/2014/06/27/why-its-difficult-for-your-library-to-lend-ebooks

Success with Story-Based Interactions

I work for a large training corporation that uses outcome-driven narratives for manager training. We use this type of interaction when we want to give managers an opportunity to practice problem-solving using critical thinking skills. The narratives are usually framed around a specific problem in the business. We call the trainings manager challenges. Each challenge takes 5–15 minutes to complete. The challenges are published online via our corporate LMS and accessed by learners online. These types of trainings are some of the most  popular trainings in our organization.

The use of interactive, outcome-driven narratives in training began in the 1990’s (Gordon, 2014). These story-based interactions are first-person, branching scenarios in which the learner is guided through a series of decisions that move them forward through the story. The action of the story is designed around specific learning objectives and the goal is for reader to learn by doing. According to Gordon, these type of training interactions are typically used in manager, project management, customer relations, and sales trainings.

Interactive stories are built using digital media to include audio, hyperlinks, images, text, and videos (Kim, Moon, & Han, 2009). Creating the story involves several steps. The first step is to outline or story-board the narrative to include the various branching options. Each branch of the story leads the learner in a different direction and has the potential to change the outcome of the story.

figure-1-1

 

Figure 1.1

Once the outline of the story is complete, the next step is to generate the story using a story generating tool or by creating the interaction using an HTML authoring tool. One tool for generating interactive stories is Twine (Freeman, 2015). Twine is an open-source writing tool for creating and publishing interactive stories. Twine is available for free online at https://twinery.org.

References

Gordon, A. (2004). Authoring branching storylines for training applications. Institute for Creative Technologies. Retrieved from http://ict.usc.edu/pubs/Authoring%20Branching%20Storylines%20for%20Training%20Applications.PDF

 

Final Reflections

This course has been of tremendous value. It shows me that no matter what you think you know about a subject, there is always more that you can learn. I found that going through the entire instructional design process in a step-by-step method helped me refine my own instructional design process. I also found that learning theories and learning technologies continue to evolve and that to stay relevant, a good instructional designer must be committed to ongoing professional development.

Throughout this course I collected resources and ideas that I will definitely incorporate into future training development efforts. I am especially interested in using MUVEs and artificial intelligence to create training that is accessible to everyone. My background is in counseling and coaching. I have a passion for helping people grow and create success in their lives. Applying this passion to the field of instructional design has led to a desire to focus on developing accessibility compliant training.

MUVEs and A.I. would be great options to explore to develop training that persons with learning and physical disabilities can benefit from and experience in a more dynamic fashion. As I continue my course of study, I hope to find opportunities to further explore these newer technologies and how I can incorporate them in my design strategies. Working for one of the largest technology companies in the world, a company I know is interested in A.I., I am hopeful that I will be able to gain real-world experience in this area as well.  Currently I am part of a small group of developers at my company working on improving the accessibility of our content.

One other final note. The evaluation of my project was limited to direct feedback from a small group of pilot participants. Further pilot implementations need to occur to gain long-term evaluation data.

Reflections on Project (B)

Project (B) was much easier to complete than Project (A). My second project was a continuation of the first project and primarily focussed on the development of additional training materials.

Things that went well were the ability to use the foundational documents to frame the content for the remainder of the training content. It was easy to ensure consistency across both parts of the content development. The time it took to complete project (B) was much less because I had done all the heavy lifting in project (A). In my opinion the time spent in analysis and design up front saves considerable development time along the way.

An observation made during project (B), and in most training development projects I have worked on professionally, is that the goals and objectives set during the analysis phase don’t always hold up in the end. As more information is obtained, as the design plays out, and as others provide feedback, the training evolves requiring modification of early intentions. That is why I like models like SAM that encourage a continuous development process.  The process I am referring to involves completing an early assessment and then jumping right into design/development and then using feedback to reassess, adjust, and continue development.  This results in a dynamic, flexible approach and is less rigid than following a linear development method.  ADDIE is actually flexible enough to use in a circular fashion as well.