12 Days of Best Practices

In honor of the holiday season, I want to share 12 Best practices from a variety of resources. Some are generic to all learning and development and some target specific areas. Please feel free to add your own Best Practices in the comments below.

Delivered via a multi-media approach – using a blend of delivery methods to suit learning preferences and learner’s needs.

From Roberta Gagos on the eLearning Industry

Different media and types of training allow us to leverage different advantages. Bring together several strategies to create a well-rounded (like our friend Santa) approach.

In total: high-impact L&D professionals need to continuously train themselves.

From Bersin by Deloitte

In the modern world, things are always changing and if you want to continue to compete in the market place, learning and development programs need to be evolving to deal with an evolving workforce.

Learning by doing and establishing shared accountability.

From Mark Thomas on Training Industry

It is important to bring learners into the process. Let them help determine training goals, learn by doing tasks, and encourage them to have accountability.

Recognize the importance of veterans in your ranks.

From Workforce.com

Our veteran employees represent a wealth of knowledge. It is key to leverage and capture that knowledge to pass on the newer employees to stay on a flight path of growing success.

70:20:10—a blend formula

From Kineo

When creating blended learning, remember that research shows that 70 percent of learning occurs on the job, 20 percent from other people (social learning) and 10 percent from formal training classes. Keep this in mind when designing a blended learning program.

Begin early

From Emily Bates on The Evolllution

Training should begin from the moment an employee is hired. You want to immerse them in the company culture and establish a culture of learning.

Adults are Just-in-Time Learners

From Frontline Learning

Adult learners gravitate and retain learning that is relevant to their current situation. It is important to tie learning into current needs and make sure learners understand what is in it for them.

In gamification: Use a story context

From Karl Kapp on ATD

When implementing gamification, a story context is a powerful motivator and gives the participant a reason to interact with your content.

For Development: Code (or courses) should be written to be reviewed.

From TutorialsPoint

If you are a developer, course and code should be written so that developers in the future can easily open up the course/code files and understand what is going on and be able to make revisions.

In Virtual Classrooms: Engage People Often

From Randah McKinnie on eLearning Guild

When you deliver virtually, you lose the ability to communicate through body language. Therefore, you need to pump up the engagement. Incorporate activities that will require the learner to actively engage in the session. Use polls, ask questions, involve them in annotating solutions on whiteboard slides.

For Succesion Planning: Assess performance and potential

From Dan McCarthy on IvyExec

When thinking about employees and their future, don’t just rely on past performance. You need to develop strategies for assessing their potential as well. Just because someone is an excellent salesperson, does not mean they will make an excellent sales manager. You need to determine where their potential lies.

Performance Improvement: Training is not always the best solution.

From James Simers

As learning and development professionals, we need to analyze a situation to determine the most effective solution. The best solution may be a job aid for a task that is complex and done infrequently, it may be a change to the environment that will resolve the issue or any of a number of performance improvement strategies. Don’t start with the assumption that you need to develop a training class and make sure you have selected the best solution to the problem.

I wish you all a peaceful and blessed season as you celebrate life, love, and family!

Does Training Need to be Concerned about Diversity?

A couple of months back, our department was updating a photo on the dashboard of our LMS. Our company is over 80% white males but the previous picture included a mixture of males and females both white and Latino that showed more diversity that the company. While discussions were going on, my boss paid a visit to a branch and ran into some new employees that were just getting into our LMS for the first time. Interestingly one of them noticed the picture and commented that while it showed diversity, there was no one “like him”. This was a great reminder that an understanding and use of diversity is important to training, just as it is to all areas of a business.

Employees want to feel connected. Employees want to see people who are “like them” when they go through, training courses and materials. Seeing other people like them help them feel more connected to the company.

Empowering a diverse workforce also can develop creativity and innovation. Honoring diversity develops an openness to others and differences which leads to idea sharing, new ways of thinking and innovation which is a business advantage.

Building a diverse workforce helps the company connect with a diverse client base. Just as employees are drawn to training that involves people “like them”, customers are also drawn to a workforce that has people “like them”. Building up this diversity can increase your client base and build your bottom line.

The conversation we had about what picture to use on the dashboard of our LMS was an important one, one that can have consequences that are company wide. A picture that may just make one employee feel more connected can lead to so much more. What conversations are you having about diversity in your training department?

Looking for more information, check out these resources:

Put your Participant First in End-of-session Polls

How many times have you answered feedback questions at the end of a webinar you have attended? Did you ever get any personal benefit from the poll?

Many feedback polls only collect feedback data, which is helpful to the facilitator and the stakeholders that requested the training the best polls benefit the participants as well. If you want to create an effective poll that provides benefit for both you and the participants, include questions that provide:

  • Concept Reinforcement
  • Audience Awareness
  • Feedback

Concept Reinforcement

Devoting one or two questions to concept reinforcement can really help both your audience and you. Even a question as open ended as, list three things you learned today, can be powerful. For your audience, the simple act of listing them down acts as reinforcement and demonstrates the main points of what they received or the pieces of information that were most notable to them. For you, you learn what stuck with them and can compare it to your goals and objectives to determine if you need to modify your presentation or activities to better communicate information.

Audience Awareness

Strategically asking a question about available resources or ideas help build up awareness for them. For instance, after we launched our new LMS, we asked a multi-select question about which types of resources the participant had used in the LMS. The question alone made them more aware of the different types of training resources at their disposal. Some participants were already aware, others started asking questions about these different resources and still others further explored the LMS on their own to discover these resources. While the data was valuable to us to understand the usage of our LMS, the goal of the question was to build awareness and encourage company employees to use all the resources of the LMS.

Feedback

These are the question that are designed to fuel your improvement for future webinars. Feedback questions need to go beyond ratings of the facilitator and the information, although these are valid questions and can be helpful, but need to include open-ended questions that invite open and honest feedback. These can include questions about what was most helpful? Least helpful? And what questions/information they wish had been a part of the webinar. These kinds of open ended questions will best provide you paths to improve and offers you the opportunity to respond to them if necessary/appropriate.

When you build your next feedback poll, think about your questions and make sure you are getting the most out of the poll. Don’t just get feedback information, but build reinforcement and audience awareness into your poll. Make sure that the poll is not just about benefiting you, but also your participants.

Interested in more resources about crafting good feedback questions? Check out these other blog posts:

Evaluation Cards – Use them to quickly improve your presentation skills

What’s the Best Webinar Polling Question Ever?

Why the Former Teacher May be Your Next Star Employee – Part I

I recently responded to a post from a person looking for advice on how to transfer from public education into corporate training because she was running into obstacles from potential employers. As someone who made the same transition, I related to her struggles. Many people in the corporate world do not see the connection between the role of a public school teacher and a corporate instructional designer/trainer and discount that experience.

My advice included understanding the way corporate jobs are framed and the terms used in describing the skills needed for a position and to frame her experience in that same way to help potential employers see how the skills are relevant.

Over the next two posts we will look at 8 of the 10 competencies in the Core Competency Model™ from ATD and job skills listed in corporate job descriptions to see why the former teacher might be your future star employee.

 

Instructional Design

  • Evaluate training needs
  • Design and develop training materials
Public school teachers are constantly designing learning activities for their students. Curricula do not provide all the materials and a good teacher is constantly tailoring activities for different learners. They evaluate existing materials and modify to meet learner needs. This is continuously evolving as the teacher evaluates the needs of their class as a whole and individual students. A good teacher is balancing these needs and differentiating instruction for the different needs present in their classroom. Teachers also engage in formal evaluation of learners through regular report cards which are a mix of concrete data and subjective assessment based on contact with the learner.

 

Training Delivery

  • Conduct classroom and virtual training sessions
Facilitation is a core role of a classroom teacher. They are constantly standing in front of learners and delivering material. They also know how to manage groups of learners that are involved in a series of different activities. They are quite accomplished at working with one group or monitoring their activity while making sure that other groups of learners are engaged in their own learning. Teachers are masters of engagement and understand the role entertainment takes in good facilitation.

 

Learning Technologies

  • Experience with Captivate, Storyline, Lectora, and Microsoft applications
  • Design and develp eLearning modules
  • Experience with a LMS
Many teachers use a lot of technology in their classrooms. They may not have specifically used rapid design software, but have used other products such as Hyperstudio, iMovie, or web-based product to design or deliver learning activities. In my days as a teacher, I taught thinking skills and basic computing through the use of RoboLab, communication skills by teaching the students to capture, edit, and produce video to create public service announcements, and a variety of tools to create eLearning modules that guided learners to explore a topic and develop a variety of skills. Additionally, in today’s classroom, a teacher may have experience with a LMS such as Moodle or others. Teachers today can be very tech savvy and even if they don’t know the specific software program you use, they have likely used something similar.

 

Evaluating Learning Impact

  • Use metrics to evaluate learning programs
Teachers use a lot of data when measuring learning and students. They have data from classroom assessments which allow the teacher to evaluate specific students and identify issues with the instructional materials. Teachers also receives data from standardized tests which lets the teacher look at their students in relation to a greater population of learners. Additionally, the teacher has subjective data that has been collected as a part of individual coaching of a learner. Teachers are a great deal of experience working with and effectively using metrics to improve learning.

As you look at these four competencies, you can see that former teachers bring extensive experience designing and facilitating instruction. They have worked with a variety of metric, both creating the assessment to capture metric but also working with metrics that have been collected by other sources. Former teachers can also have extensive technology knowledge and while they may not have worked with the exact programs you want them to utilize, they have likely worked with very similar software technologies and may have used some technology that would be a great addition to your departments toolbox.

For myself, I was a huge technology enthusiast and was always looking at ways to use technology as one of the ways to best achieve the goals and objectives for my students. My love of technology and comfort with it led me down a path of designing and developing eLearning. While that is just one of my job functions, currently it is a focus and it is my roots in technology from my teaching experience that led to my success today.

Check back next week for part two of this series where we will look at four more of the competencies outlined by the ATD.

 

Customize it!

Everything these days is customized…your burger at fast food restaurants…your wedding vows…your new car and using variables and advanced actions in Adobe Captivate, so can your e-learning.

In a recent course I created on Interview skills I decided to include an interview simulations. In addition to the feedback that happened throughout the scenario, I decided to provide a summary of customized feedback at the end of the scenario.

 

Setting the Scene

I designed a scenario for the training that many managers would face, hiring a person for a counter sales position.

Question

User Decisions

The user then goes through the scenario, making decisions about actions to take and questions to ask. I attached the responses to variables using standard actions so that when a user chooses a specific answer it may add one to the variable.

Introduction

Receiving Feedback

At the end of the scenario, the user receives customized feedback on the interview they conducted. I was able to use a conditional action to evaluate the variables and based on the variables value, show certain feedback. This allows the feedback to be very specific to the choices the employee made.

Feedback

From a Technical Side

So for each decision that a user was going to make, I created a variable. When the employee clicks on a decision choice, it either activates a standard action that increments the variable by one or it does nothing, leaving the value of the variable alone. Clicking the choices also moves the scenario forward based on the decision made. At the end of the scenario, the user receives summary feedback. For the summary feedback section at the end of the scenario, I created invisible text boxes with different feedback for each of the major concepts that I wanted to give the employee feedback on. Most times there were two different feedback options, but for some there were more. Advanced Action ScreenUpon entry to the slide, I used a conditional action to evaluate the variables. For each variable, I set up the action to evaluate the value of the variable and based on that value, it would show a specific text box. For instance, if the value of the variable was 1, it would show text box A, else, it would show text box B.

 

This allowed me to provide customized feedback to each employee taking the course. I also allow them to go through the scenario repeatedly so it was important that I attached a standard action to my restart button that clears all the feedback and resets the value of all the variables back to 0.

If you are interested in creating some customized feedback Adobe Captivate’s variables and advanced actions are a great way to do this. If you would like more information about this process, reach out to me and I would be happy to help you.

 

 

Gamification: Exploring Narrative

The universe is made up of stories, not atoms.” Muriel Rukeyser

Narrative is a part of the fabric of life and has been used as a teaching tool in all cultures. In early civilizations, stories were passed down generation to generation and these stories contained information and wisdom the people needed to survive and grow. Story continues to be a big part of our lives, whether it is the stories of the people around us or fictional stories. They are a key component in information and ideas we have learned and according to a study done at North Carolina University, narrative has an impact on motivation in learning.

Narrative is also a key element in game design. Think of games you enjoy, many of them involve quests or narrative. Game quests generally fall into types such as delivery, find, destroy, collect, master a skill, escort/defend. Between a web seminar and blog post by Allen Partridge and starting to play Wizards 101, the idea of narrative and gamification has been in my thinking.

ScreenHunter_96 Sep. 27 13.01Currently, I have  scenarios for the learner. These scenarios are typical job situations, from the scenario, the learner has to collect information and then they are given a tutorial on how to accomplish the tasks needed. This is followed by opportunities for them to have practice and then there is an assessment of the goals. The quest, so to speak, is to complete the task for the customer (in this case back ordering material).

From my recent experiences, I have been inspired to consider how I can use embed narrative throughout the lesson, beyond just presenting a scenario. One of the key ideas to keep in mind when doing this is to make sure learning objectives and game-play objectives are aligned. Gamification needs to add learning value, not just to take the learning and place it into a random cute scenario.

I realize that wrapping up my scenario at the end will also allow me to show customer feedback and the role of customer service and the employees ability to perform tasks efficiently to improving the bottom line. I look forward to weaving this and other narrative feedback into the storyboards I am currently working on.

Some keys to remember:

  • The narrative objectives need to fit the learning objectives. In the end, it is the learning that needs to take the starring role.
  • Narrative can help provide a framework and a scenario that allows you to provide feedback elements.
  • The “quest” doesn’t have to be complex to be engaging.

Finding Inspiration: In New Tools

inspiration-design-ideas3754[1]Where do you find inspiration for your work? If you ask 100 people I suspect you would get many different answers. I find inspiration in a number of different places, but today I want to focus on finding it in new tools.

The beauty about a new tool is that it can inspire you to take another look and evaluate how you do something. Changes can come out of it, not only that utilize the new tool, but from the fresh look you are taking. Since a new tool changes your workflow, it becomes a point of new insight and inspiration, so take advantage of this and be inspired.

The Thinking My New Captivate Version Inspired

Two weeks my upgrade for Adobe Captivate 7 arrived. I had been working with 5.5 and so this gave me access to all the improvements and features of both Captivate 6 and 7. Let’s look at some of the inspiration it provided me:

  • Notes to build Engagement – One of the new features is the ability to take notes. I see this as a way to build course engagement. To have my learners interact more and take responsibility for the information in the course. In my previous courses, I have often wanted learners to hold information learned at the beginning to be used later on. Some of this is procedural and some of it is scenario context. I know my learners are not always sitting at a desk in a typical learning setting so in the past, for the scenario context information, I found myself having to provide it on screen later in the course when it was needed. The addition of course notes will allow my learners to collect this information on their own and use it when necessary and give them more control over this aspect.
  • Web and YouTube Interactions to add Enhanced Resources – Some of the new interactions of Captivate 7 are the ability to bring web pages or YouTube videos right into the course. This alleviates the need for learners to leave your course to have access to this information or having you embed them into the course, making the file (and course loading times) smaller. I see this as a way to connect my learners to more resources. I have avoided adding these kinds of things in the past but as new training initiatives for our department include product knowledge and soft skills training, outside resources become more important. I am inspired to keep an eye on that in future development and take advantage of existing resources right through my course. For example, when talking about a generator, I can easily bring in a YouTube video explaining generators done by one of our vendors. My course becomes more of a collection of resources framed by me instead of something I have to completely create.
  • Data Interactions to include more Exploration – Many of the interactions now available in Captivate were added in Captivate 6 (but are still new for me because I never had this version) and they are ripe with opportunities to add more exploratory options to learning. I see these as opportunity to make my courses even more exploratory in nature. Learners are provided with charts. diagrams, or images that allow them to take control over exploring and discovering information. Previously in order to create these experiences, it required my to use advanced interactions and variable to create these and I was having to design the framework myself. This limited the amount I could take advantage of for time and resource reasons. These new interactions will free me up to create these opportunities when appropriate without having to weigh them against development time and cost.

How My Current Project was Improved

Now I had just finished designing three lesson modules that were ready for development and I decided to do that in Captivate 7, while exploring the features and functions. Let me share with you a few of the ways it impacted the development of my current project:

  • Using Characters – My company does not subscribe to any image services and I either have to find free images at places like morguefile.com or I have to take them myself (fortunately I am a photography buff and have fairly good photography equipment and resources). I have developed a set of images of people engaging in different activities that I can draw of for my modules but I did not take them in front of a green screen so that i can remove the environment. The characters now available in captivate allowed me to replace some of the photos I would have used with characters that look and feel like they are a part of the slide as opposed to a photo added to the slide. This also allowed for some consistency in use and I will probably develop a few of the characters as standard “characters” in my training since they come in a wide variety of poses and expressions.
  • Interactions – Oh, how I have pined for some prebuilt interactions. I have been hacking together more complex interactions using variables and advanced interactions but having a set of prebuilt, smoothly operating interactions is a real time-saver. I was able to replace a few of my intended interactions with one of the ones included ion Captivate 7. I still left some of the interactions I had designed and intended, but where those offered provided an equivalent substitution, I made the change and saved myself a bunch of development time.
  • Themes – Recently I developed a new look for our courses. This had been focused on the lesson slides and interactions. With the new themes available, I was able to find a complimentary one to my new design that allowed me to fill in the gaps, most noticeably in my quiz slides. This became a timely enhancement and made a huge difference in the overall aesthetic of the course.

This is just a few of the ways this new tool has fueled my thinking and motivation. I am sure as I use and work with more of the features of this tool, I will be inspired further. And tools are just one of the ways to inspire your work. I plan to write about others in future posts.

Applying Game Design Characteristics to Training

In recent years, the words gamification and gameful learning have been showing up across the industry. This has caused some to chase after turning their learning activities into games, others to make it game-like, and still others to throw up there hands and walk the other way.

Challenge Creates Learning Opportunities

There are a few elements that are key to keep in mind when developing learning. First, people learn when they are presented with a challenge. The challenge brings purpose to their learning and people want to do something purposeful. These challenges are sometimes artificial such as a test, or sometimes real-world, like learning new processes for a new job or a new skill that someone has chosen to pursue.

All kinds of resources and strategies can help learners meet these challenges. The greater the motivation the person has for accepting the challenge, the less the particular learning tools and strategies have. The motivation provides the purposefulness. If the learner has little desire or motivation to learn this new skill then the learning activity needs to provide greater engagement and purposefulness.

Game Design Characteristics that Promote Learning

Games provide many characteristics that promote opportunities for learning. Here are a few that I am focusing on adding to my learning activity design:

  • Scaffolded challenges leading up to a “game goal”
  • Exploratory environment and choice
  • Constant feedback and the freedom to fail without negative consequences

Applying Challenges, Exploration and Feedback

Let me walk you through a few characteristics of a recent eLearning activity I have created. My goal is for my learner to be able to successfully order material a customer needs and deliver it to the customer. This involves several possible strategies available to the employee and these strategies are broken up into different modules but already you can see the framework of a over arching goal with smaller goals leading up to it.

Let’s look at one particular module that guides the learner through allocating that material to a purchase order. Depending on the type of customer, the learner can follow two paths. Each one presents a scenario that is similar to a situation they might face on a day to day basis. initially the module is a demonstration that gives them opportunities to make choices. This lets them explore with out actually doing the tedious work of entering information.

At different points in the scenario, the learner collects information and makes choices. based on these choices, the learner is provided feedback as to whether that is the best choice and when a different choice is better. The learner can make a choice that is wrong for this scenario but before being guided back to the best choice, they learn when the choice they have made works best.

User Path Choice

The learner is also presented with Tell Me More boxes as they complete the main scenario. These boxes let them learn more information about special circumstances if they want to learn more.Tell Me More Box This adds additional content for those who need it while not cluttering up the basic procedure for those who are new to it or only use the basic process. Because the Table of Contents allows the user to easily move to different parts of the module, the user can always explore these at a later time.

Now the learning module does not look like a game. It would be a poor game at best and the point wasn’t to make it look or feel like a game. The key was to incorporate some of the same characteristics that are successful in game design to the eLearning module.

Haw are you using game design characteristics in your training activities?