Instructional Design Basics


Don’t Make Me Wait


My driving routes to work and other places may appear to be random and half-hazard but this isn’t the case.  In fact these routes are often carefully setup to minimize the likelihood of traffic.  And though these routes sometimes result in longer commutes they typically lessen the amount of time spent in traffic.  This is good as waiting around drives me crazy.

Besides driving, this is a trait that is true in other areas and unfortunately for me, waiting, is a common occurrence with learning technologies. Often I have to wait on technologies to converge, infrastructures to get in place and for appropriate projects to emerge before I get to explore.

Today I’ll talk about a frustratingly long wait with mobile learning or mlearning.

You Got a Problem with Me?

Several years ago I wrote a post on issues that needed to be addressed before mobile could take off as a learning platform. For the most part those problems have been addressed but we still haven’t seen this platform really take off.

Part of this has to do with an early view of what mlearning should be.  In this regard, there was a an assumption that mlearning would be similar to elearning, that is, its content would be much like your typical online course, but just on a smaller screen.   If this assumption was true, then mlearning as a platform would have already taken off.

This hasn’t happened though as our assumptions about mlearning have evolved into something much more powerful.  Here learning professionals are looking at mobile technology in another way—they are focusing on what this technology brings to the table that the other platforms don’t and what they have found is context.

We’ve come to realize that these devices are able to determine where you are and what you are doing. In addition these devices have the computing and networking power to act on this contextual information. Here designers can use push/pull measures to deliver content that is related to a person’s immediate and future needs.

Context in this regard is an incredible performance enhancing tool, but unfortunately for me, it’s what has kept us waiting with this technology. The following table outlines some of the remaining issues with mlearning:



Where it’s At

As can be seen there are some significant barriers remaining, but that doesn’t mean it’s all bad.  In this regard there are some existing opportunities for mobile technology—two common strategies are:

Expert Access

Designers have seen the communication possibilities that are inherent in these technologies and are starting to use it as a pull tool.  Here by taking advantage of the voice, text, and video conferencing abilities that these devices offer, novice users can easily access experts in the field for questions, feedback and advice.

Designers are also looking at the push opportunities that these technologies represent—here they are using these devices to support reinforcement and practice activities. Such strategies are important as they will aid transfer and internalization of content.  In this area, having experts use curation tools can offer tremendous power as these tools can extend your learning activities.

Just-in-time Learning

Job-aids and handouts have always been popular tools to give to our students.  These tools are useful as they support our students in their working worlds.  Here when they need to perform their job, a student can easily pull out a job-aid or reference material and use it to complete the task at hand.

Designers have realized that mobile technologies can allow them to create more robust job-aids and reference materials.  And instead of simple procedural guides, checklists and handouts, we can now use Mobile Apps and ePublications to include video, augmented reality (AR) and other strategies to provide greater clarity for our students.  We can also act on the data that is inputted into these devices—such use can greatly impact ROI by increasing work productivity and decreasing error rates with some tasks.

Where it’s Going

All of this has me excited and looking for appropriate projects to explore; however, my real excitement comes when looking at the future.  The convergence of AR, wearable devices and connected profile information will create some intriguing metacognition tools.

In this regard, subject experts excel in their areas because they can apply more advanced metacognitive abilities in their field.  This allows them to focus on more stimuli as they work which in turn, also allows them to diagnose and evaluate their progress in deeper ways.  Soon these mobile tools will provide novice users with these abilities—here interfaces will allow them to focus on more things and provide them with more information on their progress.

The following video illustrates this as it demonstrates a possible Google Glass App. Today, expert runners are attuned to conditions (temperature, heartbeat, wind, pace, altitude,…) that novice runners are not. GhostRunner creates an interface that provides this information to all runners. This interface will alert runners to conditions that might impede their run and give them valuable feedback on how they are doing.

Such tools are going to offer amazing opportunities to improve performance and even though it means I have to wait a bit I’m OK with it—I hope you can stand the wait too.

GhostRunner Demo from OnTheGo Platforms on Vimeo.


Seriously the End of the World Is Coming


We survived another year—that’s two straight years of incorrect end of the world predictions.  You would think that people would stop believing this stuff but that isn’t the case, in fact, a popular show highlights this fear.  Doomsday Preppers follows people that are actively preparing for the end of world.

As to these preppers, I guess if the end of the world is coming, it’s good to be prepared, but these scenarios seem like a long shot to me.  And in this regard, I’d rather spend my energies preparing for something that is likely to happen. So let’s revisit the Connan clip and get ready for some predictions of the coming year and beyond.

One Step Back

Last year my predictions were pretty broad and longer in range than just 2012. This year, these predictions are still in play; however, some developments have either strengthened parts of these predictions or caused slight modifications:

Last Year’s Prediction Revised Prediction for 2013 and Beyond
You will finally be asked to do mobile learning and you will fail You are failing with mobile learning
Formal training wins Formal training still wins
We are not going away Well, some of us are not going away

1.  You are failing with mobile learning
If you are not doing mobile learning today then straight up, you are a failure.  In this regard, Smartphone penetration, IS infrastructure and content development tools are in place.  This means you no longer have any of these as an excuse.  Further, mobile provides performance support abilities not addressed by any other delivery system. This removes the final argument for not doing it, that being, lacking a use case for it.

In this regard, performance support has always been a need in training. Job aids and other takeaways are important because they help users transfer knowledge and increase on the job performance.   And it’s in this performance support area that everyone is failing at with mobile.  A recent initiative illustrates this failure:

The Berg Balance Scale is an assessment tool that determines a patient’s risk of falling.  Based on their score, various treatments are used to counter that fall risk.  In addition, clusters of scores indicate exercises that can be done to increase a patient’s mobility and lessen their future risk of falling.

This all seems easy enough and when a request for training on this tool came in, we came up with a pretty standard solution.  Here we developed an online course that went over the 14 assessment items and provided video and other content to illustrate each measurement item.  Then we provided students with a nicely formatted Berg Balance Scale job-aid that they could print out and use on the job.

So our solution focused on training (teaching them how do the assessment) and included a performance support tool (the nicely formatted job-aid).  This solution though should have been the other way around, that is, we should have focused on developing a performance support tool and included some training elements in it.

In this regard, we could have built a mobile application that would have walked the users through each step in the assessment.  And if they needed help on a particular item, they could have accessed training on that item through the mobile application.

The main advantage of that solution would be the time savings involved.  First we wouldn’t have forced everyone to take a 1 hour training course—users would only access training that they needed.  Secondly and more importantly, this mobile app would cut out the time needed to perform the calculations and cluster analysis in the scale.  Here users would enter the Berg Balance test information and then get the results in seconds. This time savings would be realized every time they performed that assessment.  Besides saving time, the automatic calculations and analysis would also lessen the chance of human errors in each assessment.

So to stop failing with mobile learning, you should start examining your content for performance support opportunities.  If you find an appropriate opportunity then build a mobile application or widget for it – doing so could save your organization significant money and decrease error rates.

2.  Formal training still wins
With Experience API  and Mozilla’s Open Badges, we are close to the goal of tracking informal learning. These and other technologies will bring about an environment where all learning is tracked.

In addition, recent movement around the concept of Big Data will further strengthen the need for tracking and assignment measures.   Here recommendation engines will be used in your systems to push and pull content to your students.  Using Big Data concepts, these recommendation engines will be used to counter risks associated to some types of employees. This means that one day soon, each employee will have predictive scores associated to them that indicates their risk for quitting, getting hurt, calling in sick,… and based on those risks, training will be pushed or pulled to them.

So in the end, it still looks like Formal is going to win in the informal/formal debate.

3.  Well some of us are not going away
Last year it was hard not to hear about Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC). This idea and others like freelance professors will fundamentally change the nature of formal education.  Here cheap content and competition will shift the nature of education as a product to education as a service.

Initially this means that there will be high demand for content production, but soon after market economies will take over.  As the market forces take hold, organizations will fail, consolidate and merge to meet demand. This means that eventually a great number of us will no longer be needed.

So learning professionals are not going away, but in five years there’s going to be a glut of skilled people in the field—ramp your skills up or face the consequences.

New to the List

Last year I spent a lot of time writing and reading about technologies and initiatives that are changing the stand-up training world. These are great changes and I’m excited about what they represent, so here are a couple new predictions to my list:

4.  Brick and mortar gets downsized, but this is good
Flipped Learning is changing the way the classroom operates. As this movement grows, our Tell/Show content will become the homework that our students complete and our classrooms will focus on Do activities.   This shift in focus, will allow stand-up instructors the ability to create problem-based and experiential learning environments.

Further as instructors produce, share and organize content for these environments, they will become curators of knowledge.  This is significant in that, these activities will extend their reach beyond the classroom—in this world, all learning events have the possibility of becoming life-long activities. Here students follow their instructors on social media channels long after the classroom experience is over.

As this shift happens, the amount of direct hands-on class time will begin to change as well.  Here since much of the class content will be covered online, there will not be the need to meet up as much.  So a class that meets three days a week now, may one day only meet once a week.

Brick and mortar classrooms will also have to deal with the competition MOOCs represent. Access to cheap quality content is a threat to the traditional stand-up model. And in this regard, students that are comfortable with online learning will begin asking, “Why should I pay thousands of dollars for this class when I can get the same or like content for free online?”

So the Brick and mortar classroom model is going to be hit with two forces—less need to meet directly and increased competition.  These forces will cause some turmoil in these circles, but this is good for the students. Here they will have more choices and still receive effective content.

5.  HR embraces the new world
The technologies talked about above, offer some exciting opportunities for professional development and talent management folks.

For one, organizations that are strapped for cash often lack the funds needed to develop their employees. Soon these organizations will be able to tap into the free and cheap content being offered by MOOCs.  In addition, they will be able to track completion of this informal content by taking advantage of Experience API.

These technologies also offer additional opportunities as they begin to open up the door to potential employees.  In our current environment, formal degrees are a requirement to get your foot in the door, but these degrees offer little in explaining an employee’s true background. ADL’s Training and Learning Architecture (TLA) as well as features like Mozilla’s Open Badges and LinkedIn’s endorsements and recommendations will allow talent management professional greater insight into potential employees.  Ultimately these technologies may change the formal degree requirements for many of today’s jobs and thus increase the pool of talent available for some hard to staff positions.

Finally as noted in my second prediction, big data concepts offer abilities to improve recommendation engines for training. These engines will ensure employees get individualized training and identify mentoring opportunities within the organization.

Minor Predictions

In addition to the above predictions I do have several minor ones that are not as significant and will not take as long to come to fruition.  These are:

6.  Trends associated with social media and mobile technologies have changed interface standards.  In this regard, the Next button is no longer sacred and learners are comfortable using their scrollbars.

7.  Tappestry and other like apps will gain momentum as the focus around curation and tracking informal learning continues.

8.  Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) will continue to be big this year and will hasten the move to HTML5.  Start converting your Flash based courses to HTML5 and stop building solely with this tool.

9.  Augmented Reality (AR) is still not ready for wide scale mobile use. Here standards across devices for technologies like Near Field Communication (NFC) have not been established. In addition the public at large has not been introduced to this technology sufficiently.  AR use is still a couple of years away at best.

This is the End

You may note that none of my predictions included an end of the world scenario, so if this comes to pass well then “my bad.” If you’re worried about that stuff, you might want to check out the following links:

List of upcoming end of the world dates

Homepage of Doomsday Preppers

Regardless of what happens this year it will be interesting and I hope we all get the chance to enjoy it.  Cheers.


Wake up ILT—It’s Time to Get Technical

We have never expected much out of our stand-up trainers in regards to technology. Sure some of them have used Blackboard to add content and a few have facilitated a discussion board or two but when it comes to technology; cutting edge is still PowerPoint.  And the majority of our experience continues to look like:

These times are changing and soon expectations will drive a shift in what stand-up classrooms look like.  Today I’ll talk about a couple of these evolving expectations and provide a glimpse of the future cutting edge. 

Flipping Learning

Recent tools and technologies have lessened our dependency on specialized teams for online content.  Now anyone can access free or cheap tools that allow you to build courses, capture screen demonstrations, edit graphics, record audio or shoot video. In addition skill-sets have improved to the point that many people are comfortable playing and working with these tools.  Many users no longer need a programmer or graphic artist to build online content that looks good.  And some of these people are starting to notice how this can be used for stand-up:

Here Flipped Learning is touted as the next thing for classroom training. Instructors in this model are taking their Tell/Show content and placing it online.  This online content is then assigned to students as homework. This is nice as it addresses the self-pacing needs students have while giving instructors more freedom with their classroom activities. Here instructors can focus their classroom time around application and practice or use this time to individualize their content.

In this regard, stand-up trainers are recognizing that they can develop and deliver their own online content, which is important as your students may have unique needs. In addition, trainers are also beginning to take note of Khan Academy, YouTube, and other content aggregators as these sites can provide additional content to fulfill student needs.

eBooks, iBooks, …

Content in this regard doesn’t have to be limited to homework as the rise of interactive books and tablets presents additional opportunities in your classrooms.  These eBooks allow you to develop content that your students can access for their Tell/Show needs.  A bonus with these books is the possibility to create rich interactions that your students can access:

Here you can include your Do content and the potential of this can be seen in the following examples:

The Magic of Reality

 Bobo Explores Light

The above eBooks demonstrate the possibility of developing rich worlds that your students can launch.  In addition students can share highlighted passages and notes that they have made within the content. Other abilities like text-to-speech and dictionary/thesaurus tools further support student needs.

As Ereaders and tablet penetration continues, this will become an increasing expectation of your students.  Soon giving students a hard copy manual will not be enough.  You will need to have eBooks with video and interactive graphics that students can use.  In addition these books will need to include applications and widgets that support performance.  For example a recent project I encountered focused on the Berg Balance test.  A future eBook on this topic may have a widget that would allow students the ability to enter user data, and then this widget would calculate the test results automatically for students. A widget like this is much more powerful than a simple checklist or other job aid that might be used today.

For students that still want/need hardcopy materials, augmented reality may offer similar opportunities for your Tell/Show/Do content.  Here you can use this technology to enhance your print materials to:

Show 3D objects and models  

Create interactions

Illustrate a concept

Incorporating eBooks and Augmented Reality in the classroom will require specialized knowledge, so you may have to work with your eLearning groups in order to meet these needs initially.  That’s ok though as these groups have worked with technology and education for some time and can help you realize your visions here.

The Cutting Edge

The great thing about these technologies is they start to dispel the notion that classroom training is a one-time event. Here rather than patting our students on the back and sending them on their way we have the ability to do more.  We can use these technologies to make these events life-long learning opportunities.

In this regard we can use these technologies to continue to create content that users can interact with long after the class is over. This content may be online materials that we created or shared links to articles, videos and other resources.  The eBook route can facilitate these activities as a widget could be built for dynamic content. So you could have a feed or a web page that is maintained by an instructor and pull that information into an eBook.

In this world, stand-up trainers act as curators of knowledge.  Here our classroom events are focused on Do content and students get their self-pacing and individualization needs through social and informal channels maintained by our instructors.  Our instructors have followers and people interacting with their sites to discuss and grow their skills.

Most importantly though our classrooms don’t look like:


Highway to the Danger Zone

I’m not a big fan of Tom Cruise; in fact a comedian I saw many years ago, summed up my thoughts on him:

“... he basically plays the same character over and over…

Cocktail— he was a cocky bartender that was challenged by his past; he falls in love and overcomes his challenge.

Days of Thunder—he was a cocky race car driver that was challenged by his past; he falls in love and  …

Top Gun—he was a cocky pilot that was…”

His movies and characters have evolved a little since then, but for the most part he still repeats many of the same themes.   And as such, I am always a little hesitant to acknowledge him or his movies.

But today I want to mention Minority Report as it had some pretty cool ideas about our future.  One scene that I found particularly interesting is the one in which his character is walking through a mall as advertising jumps out at him.

I find this scene interesting as the technology demonstrated in it is not that far away. In fact, thanks to the recent growth in Smartphone and Tablet usage as well as advances in augmented reality, you might argue that it is already in place. In this regard, there are currently thousands of unseen objects just waiting to jump out at you.

Was Blind but Now I See

In several past posts I have talked about augment reality (AR) and how it might be useful for training activities.  With augmented reality, the user’s senses—what they see and hear—is augmented by some external device.

Many of us have experienced a form of this while watching a Sunday afternoon football game. Here extra visual information is added to the TV screen in the form of the Yellow 1st down line or with the Pen tool that highlights a person or place on the field to watch.  These tools help focus our attention and can greatly increase our understanding of what is going on within the game.

Recent mobile devices (Smartphones, Tablets, …) have technologies in place that allow for these same abilities. Here audio and visuals can be projected onto whatever environment we are interacting with at the moment.  And a key to this experience is the location information that our mobile devices can gather about us.

This information is important because it helps training administrators decided what their users might need to know. Specifically by determining where a users is, what is around them or what they are doing, administrators can deduce what their users may need help with and push appropriate content to them.

When Push Comes to Shove

There are currently several technologies that support these activities:

Each of these technologies contains triggers that administrators can use to push content onto mobile devices.  And how or what you want to push to your users will depend on your training needs.

Some things that you might want to push though are instructor lead materials that facilitate the user experience.  In this regard you could display a map over the user’s screen that provides directions to the different classrooms.  In addition, each classroom could be linked up to display needed classroom resources.  Here the users could access job aids, manuals, and other content through these augmented screens.  A final
classroom activity that may improve the user experience deals with level one evaluation—here your evaluations could be setup so that the surveys launch directly onto your users’ mobile devices.

Besides facilitating classroom sessions you could also use these technologies to present course content.  In an earlier post I describe how a course could be developed around QR codes but the other technologies offer similar abilities.  The GPS utilities in particular present some unique opportunities here as the triggers can be based on the user’s proximity to a location.

Regardless if you use this technology or not, it’s out there now and there are thousand of objects just waiting to catch up with you. And as Tom Cruise’s character found out, you can’t run away from them.  One day you’ll have to deal with it—let’s just hope you don’t have to take as drastic of an action as his character took.



Not My Typical Post

I’m not a big fan of the stream of conscious posts that are found on many blogs, but today I have something stuck in my head and I don’t have time to really develop my usual blog entry so…

Lately I have seen several articles on Gamification, which is a strategy that uses game mechanics to influence and or change behavior. This focus on influencing and changing behavior makes it an appealing strategy for marketing and training activities.   And some recent articles I have run across on Gamification include:

Google Reader

Marketing Applications

More Marketing Applications

Training Needs

Now before you freak out, roll your eyes or emphatically state that games are just for kids and not something for the training world, let me remind you that training isn’t just about how many classes/courses you have developed or other butts-in-seats statistics. Rather training is about changing behavior and in this regard evaluation, feedback and rewards are crucial components to ensure that employee behavior is changed. These components (evaluation, feedback and rewards) are natural mechanics in games and as such make games a perfect strategy here.

Saying this, an aspect in some recent games that I am particularly interested in, is the location-based abilities seen within mobile games. These games recognize where you are and let you participate in an alternative reality based on this physical location.  A couple examples of these games are:

Shadow Cities—a new obsession of mine

Playing Risk in the Big Apple

The reward mechanic in these games is that you and your team can take over parts of the world—control and establish an empire in this regard.  For some that might not be appealing but for me, that is, someone that spent many formative years playing D&D and Risk I can’t wait to play these games or anything like them.

And as to training and how a healthcare facility might employ a similar game mechanic, I think there are many possibilities:

  • Infection prevention and other patient safety activities could be observed and tracked.  Here whenever proper hand hygiene or some other patient safety technique was practiced this could be scored. High scores here would allow teams, whether it’s a floor, department or unit to take control over an area.
  • You could also tie this type of mechanic to Patient Satisfaction and other scores at the hospital level—here patients could enter their scores through a mobile application.  These real time scores would determine which hospital controlled the game area.

Ok so I think I got that out of my head for now—maybe one day I’ll turn it into one of my normal posts.  As for you what game mechanics do you see value with or which ones would you like to see implemented in a training activity?