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.

Instructional Design: Can Anyone Do It?

My interpretation of instructional design is that it is a systematic approach to creating learning content and learning experiences. The approach is based on learning theories and development models that have been shown to support learning. The constructivist approach is my favorite so far. I believe that empowering learners to control their own learning experience leads to more motivated learners who seek to continue learning because it is fun and rewarding.

I am also very interested in the use of virtual learning environments and artificial intelligence to elevate distance learning to the next level. So can anyone do this? Ultimately, I hope not. I would like to think that formal education, developed technical skills, and real-world experience would be requirements for instructional designers in all settings. Unfortunately, this is not always the case in practice.

Many people and organizations feel like anyone who knows how to create a PowerPoint presentation can develop training. And while this is technically true, I think there are risks to the business and the learner when this occurs. Training developers who don’t know about ADDIE for example tend to skip the analysis phase and fail to consider implementation criteria before designing and developing content. This can lead to a final product that does meet the goals of the business leading to wasted time and money or at a minimum cost more than originally budgeted due to the expense of refining the training after only a few implementations.

For my own job security and professional credibility, I would love to see some sort of professional standards applied to the field of instructional design.  I know that the Association for Talent Development (ATD) has the Certified Learning Professional Certification program and this is a great start. However, a CLPC is a voluntary credentialing that is not required by most employers. As a matter of fact, many employers do not require any type of formal education for instructional designers. The tend to select persons with previous instructional design experience, training experience, or subject-matter expertise. While I have benefitted from this practice, it let me get my start in the field, I still think credentialing will benefit everyone.

Self-Regulation

A line from one of my favorite movie star’s movie is “keep it together, keep it together, keep it together.” The actor repeated this line every time he was in a stressful or emotional charged situation. His goal was to remain calm under fire and not let his emotions and anxiety cause him to respond irresponsibly or erratically. Repeating the phrase “keep it together” was his way of self-regulation.

To me, the term self-regulation means managing your emotional responses to ensure you are making clear decisions, interacting favorably with others, and achieving your desired goal with minimal resistance. Historically, I was not good at self-regulating. I would often response with to much emotion. These responses, whether positive or negative, were often perceived as to intense and would intimidate or turnoff others. To create the success I sought in life, I had to turn the volume down and learn to self-regulate.

I also had to learn to how to communicate with others in a way that they and I felt heard and understood. I learned to do this by giving up two things, seeking validation and being right. Seeking validation rather than feedback means that your ego is involved and ego and emotions go hand-in-hand. In order to self regulate more effectively I think it is important to forgo validation and sincerely be open to feedback. This is not easy because we all want the gold star and the verbal acknowledgement that our work is “good enough.”

Giving up the need to be right, which is also a form of relinquishing validation, is another key to self-regulation. I often ask myself, “Would you rather be happy or be right?” Most of the time I chose happy. By choosing happy, I reduce the likeliness of an intense emotional response when I experience resistance from others. This is especially helpful when collaborating with other training developers.

At the end of the day, the better I self regulate, the more I get what we all want in the first place. Agreement, acceptance, and opportunities to influence outcomes and others.

 

Project A Reflections

My expectations entering into this project was for it to be fun, challenging, and rewarding. I was not disappointed. The part I enjoy the most is the analysis phase.  I like helping people and organizations identify problems and then coming up with a viable way to resolve the problem. Sometimes the solution is training and other times it is not.

For this project, the customer’s problem is that staff members are apathetic and experiencing a great deal of career-related anxiety due to a recent merger with a larger company.  Employees are concerned about job security and many of them feel disempowered and unable to influence their own job security. Being able to clarify the issue led to immediate buy-in from the client when I proposed a solution. Using active listening techniques helped me accomplish my goal of gaining agreement with the client.

What didn’t go so well during this project was the client allocating sufficient time to supporting the project. While this project was a top priority for me, the client viewed is a nice-to-do not a need-to-do initiative. This, coupled with the demands of managing a merger led to very limited support from the client during the design and development phases. I had to recruit my own subject matter experts, do additional research on my own, and develop content that is not as organizationally specific as I would have liked.

Once I moved into the development phase for Project (B) the same conditions existed. However, the clients response to the overall project in the end was very favorable. She realizes that the deliverables I submitted are a framework and not the final product. She does feel like the deliverables are good enough to pilot and to submit to the executive staff for approval. Overall, I am very satisfied with the outcome.

On a separate note, the documentation I developed to support this project, the research I did on career progression and coaching conversations was immediately applicable in my current role as a training developer. I really appreciate the two-for-one reward of completing this project.