Instructional Design Basics


CURE-ation: A Treatment for the Unhelpful Teacher

*This post originally appeared in eLearning Industry

Unhelpful high school teacher  is an internet meme that makes fun of all the bad teachers we’ve encountered.  And to celebrate this meme, I’ve made one of my own:

My Unhelpful Teacher Example

 An unfortunate thing about my example is that this is something that we’ve all done and continue to do in our training solutions.  In this regard we are constantly facing a dilemma with our students.

Do we focus on?

  1. Low performers and bore the rest of our students.
  2. High performers and confuse the rest of our students or
  3. Average performers and lose a significant number of our students to boredom and confusion.

Since our compliance masters don’t care—they just want to know that training was completed—we often choose the last option. After all, average performers should account for a majority of our students and the other students will receive training— it’s just not optimal for their needs.

As an educator, we should be interested in improving everyone’s performance, so I’m not convinced that this solution is appropriate. Moving forward we have to stop being unhelpful with these students.

Who are We Training

To do this, we first need to recognize that low performers (novices) and high performers (experts) are being underserved in our training activities.  And from these groups we should note:

  1. Even our experts can improve their performance. Occasionally our experts may employ old methods/procedures or they may be new to an organization and its unique needs.
  2. Our novices lack the skills and background necessary for deep metacognitive activities.  Being able to determine, “how well I am doing,”is this content relevant,” and “what should I do to improve” is crucial to developing skills.
  3. Our novices lack strong ties to subject matter experts as their personal learning networks are filled with other novices.  These networks are important as we go to them for quick guidance and information.

All of this is important when considering the 70/20/10 model for Learning and Development. This model states that 70% of our work knowledge is the result of on-the-job activities; 20% is the result of mentoring pursuits and 10% of our knowledge is the result of formal training.  Although this model is debatable, it highlights another idea that needs to be stressed:

Your students are going to get trained on how to do their job and most of this training will be outside of your control. 

This is disturbing as we know that our novices lack the metacognitive abilities and developed networks to easily learn how to do their job.  These challenges ensure that they are going to make mistakes and worse yet, they may fail to learn from these mistakes.

How Curation Helps Novices

Fortunately we can lessen these risks by adding touch points with our students after our learning events. A well-timed post on how to accomplish a task may be just the thing that a novice needs to put them back on track.  Better yet, creating a resource that students can access and search for knowledge, offers additional guidance opportunities for them.

Finding, organizing and distributing content are key activities of a curator and it’s these activities that will allow you to create the additional touch points that your novices need. Here you can share articles, podcasts, videos and other sources that supplement or expand on the topics you have covered.  These touch points are important as we know that these students will need extra repetition, practice and feedback to learn.

How Curation Helps Experts

The benefits of curation are not just limited to your novices though.  In particular, curation will provide opportunities for you to develop and grow your experts.  This is because many curated sites and tools allow for comments, user submissions, postings, rankings, and other common social media features.

These technologies create environments that foster collaboration and it’s in these environments where your experts will shine.  In this regard, your experts are skilled because they continually update their knowledge—they read, question, try new things and then revise.

Many of your experts will use these environments to help them in their own internal development quests—here they will post comments; reply to articles and questions; and may even create content to post.   This collaboration is profound as it will require evaluation, synthesis and creation skills—these skills are at the highest levels on Bloom’s taxonomy.

Being Helpful

As your curation site evolves it can become a valued resource for your organization.  Recent technologies like Experience API will increase this value by providing opportunities to track user participation and activity.  And as this approach gains acceptance a new meme may be in order.  Let’s call it the Helpful Content Curator and some examples are:

Now the only really difficult choice is figuring out the ClipArt to use for this meme.


The End of the World May or May Not Come This Year

*This post originally appeared in eLearning Industry 

The other day my dad offered a glimpse into his world of intrigues.  Here I was giving him grief about the spat between the Pope and Rush Limbaugh. During our discussion, he broke out:

 “Some scholars say that the next antichrist is going to be the Pope.”

According to the Internet, my dad may be on to something.

Personally I think my dad and the Internet are wrong about the whole pope/antichrist thing; however, I do think some amazing things are going to happen in the next several years and that’s what I want to talk about today.

Predictions for 2014 and Beyond

The following list contains my predictions of likely events for 2014 and beyond:

1. You realize that mLearning is Overhyped (for now)
In our current landscape, mLearning doesn’t improve our formal learning environment much. In this regard, our users are still tied to a LMS and to the objects within it—any learning that occurs outside of this structure isn’t easily recognized.

This is unfortunate as our mobile devices are always with us and support powerful self-directed content.  For instance iBooks and ePubs are widely available and used with these devices.  These objects can contain dynamic content, video, 3D multimedia, Augmented Reality, complex interactions and software widgets.

More importantly these iBooks and other objects can be embedded within our environments and tools. This feature becomes more significant as our mobile devices gain context awareness.  Such awareness gives designers the ability to use push/pull measures to deliver content that is related to a person’s immediate and future needs.

Fortunately these limits are changing as Experience API and the Internet of Things are slowly becoming a reality.  This year you will need to start embracing these technologies and figuring out how your content will work in this new world. Converting your manuals and job-aids to mobile friendly objects is a good place to start.

2.  Formal training wins
This long standing prediction of mine isn’t solely about push/pull, directed versus self-directed or even formal versus informal learning; rather it is about what recommendation engines and open reporting abilities mean for our field.

Here Experience API and Open Badges will soon allow us to track any type of learning (formal/informal, directed/self-directed,…).  In addition as our Personal, Social and other data profiles become connected/organized within internal systems, our abilities to recommend content for our students will increase greatly.   Adaptive learning will eventually be part of this and will mean that our organizations will be able to predict not only the content that our students need, but also their unique content preferences.

These systems will also allow us to track and report on all learning activities regardless of whether they are internally or externally provided or even directed or self-directed activities. And when learning professionals have this ability, then, it’s all formal, that is, we have the ability to control what is learned with our recommendation engines as well as the reports to track it.

3.  You need to up your game now
MOOCs, freelance professors and other trends are shifting the nature of education as a product to education as a service. Here cheap content and competition will eventually mean that market forces will take hold and cause organizations to fail, consolidate and merge.  When this happens a glut of skilled professional will be around.

You need to start preparing for this eventuality to ensure that your role is valued and needed in five years.  Fortunately many new roles are emerging today that will demonstrate this value for years to come:

  1. Data experts are needed for learning and development folks.  People analytics  will enter into HR and Talent Management areas and Adaptive Learning needs will begin entering the learning realm.
  2. Curation and metadata activities are needed to capture, sequence and validate all the cheap and quality content that is available online.
  3. Gaming and simulation development skills will continue to gain influence and acceptance in the learning world; however, this will remain a niche area until cost/quality/time requirements scale down for it.
  4. Mobile performance support professionals will be needed to create the tools and content that will be embedded in our work environments.
  5. Traditional online course designers will be needed, but these designers need to update their skills to address our changing user interfaces—touch, voice, gesture,…

4.  Formal learning institutions will embrace new opportunities
Many colleges, universities and other formal learning institutions are in for a rough ride in the next several years. Brick and mortar classrooms will have to deal with the competition MOOCs represent. This access to cheap quality content is a threat to the traditional stand-up model, as students will begin asking themselves,

“Why should I pay thousands of dollars for a class when I can get the same or like content online for a fraction of the price?”

Only a small group of schools and companies will emerge as the dominant MOOC providers, which means that everyone else will need to figure out how to adjust for their loss of revenue.  One promising option is for these learning institutions to form academic partnerships with regional companies and organizations.  Here these institutions agree to offer specialized degrees and programs to companies for a set number of students—a learning cohort.

Such agreements will create new revenues for these institutions and will allow them to safely plan and project enrollment numbers based off these guarantees. These agreements also benefit the regional companies by providing specialized training for their needs as well as cutting costs related to normal tuition reimbursement models.

5.  Internal data wars will happen soon
In the business world, the departments that tell the best story or demonstrate the most value get the resources and influence within the company. Such dynamics make sense, but can lead to infighting and groups being less than willing to share information. This is unfortunate as the above predictions rely on data sets across our business lines.

Getting recommendation engines and reporting tools developed will require cooperation and data from Human Resources, Training, Talent Management, Organizational Development, Business Intelligence, Information Systems, Legal…

This year, be proactive and start building relationships with all of these groups so that you can begin developing your engines and tools.

This is the End

You may have noticed that none of my predictions included an end of the world scenario and if this comes to pass well then “my bad.” If you are rooting for the end of the world, I suggest reading up on the whole pope/antichrist thing.

Regardless of what happens, the next several years are going to be interesting— I hope we all get the chance to enjoy them.  Cheers.



Reviewing 2013


Looking at my blog, you might think that this was a slow year regarding my development activities.  You would be partly right; however, to get a complete view on what has occupied my mind this year, you need to check some additional resources.

Writing activities

As for writing, my blog only contained 3 other posts this year.  Primarily these posts focused on mobile learning and how it will be used to support performance improvement rather than strict training initiatives.

I did have a couple additional articles that were posted on other eLearning sites:

Learning Solutions Magazine

Build   a Dream Team for Your eLearning Project

This article talks about developing a team for your eLearning projects.  It talks about the pros and cons related to high and low process teams as well as formally trained verse   self-trained members.

eLearning Industry

CURE-ation:   A Treatment for the Unhelpful Teacher

This article talks about why you should use Curation activities to engage your novice and expert students.

These external posts were fun and will be something I’ll focus more attention on next year—so keep an eye out for me there.

Content Curation

In addition to creating content, I helped administer an eLearning community.  This year I read and shared many great articles with this group.  Some highlights included:

Favorite Resources that I Submitted/Shared

The Future Of Technology Isn't Mobile, It's Contextual
This article presents a great look at the future and how data will be gathered and used. We need to start thinking about this and figuring out how to use it responsibly for talent management and training.

Read a Lawyer's Amazingly Detailed Analysis of Bilbo's Contract in The Hobbit
I have been an avid Sci-Fi/Fantasy reader since I was a little kid, so I had to share this article.  It demonstrates an interesting strategy to teach legal concepts.  Using pop culture references and stories can achieve similar results in your training interventions.

Writing Styles for eLearning Narration  
There are a lot of different writing needs for eLearning courses.  This article does a great job of highlighting these styles and their unique needs.  

Favorite Resources that Were Submitted by Someone Else in the Group

47 Mind-Blowing Psychological Facts You Should Know About Yourself
This post has 47 interface and instructional design tips/tricks that you should follow. Not only are these tips useful, the article includes the research behind each of them.

Why Even Radiologists Can Miss A Gorilla Hiding In Plain Sight
This post talks about inattentional blindness and how it shapes what we see or don’t see.

Feedback in scenarios: Let them think!
This article gives some great advice on how to improve your scenario feedback. Plus, there are some Cathy Moore fans in my group so I had to give them some love.

Resources that I Submitted/Shared that Received the Most Likes/Comments

Prescribed: A Personalized Tour of Obamacare
This is a great example of how you can create highly engaging courses using interactive video. This example is really cool, but the production needs in it are quite steep.

Don’t Make Me Wait
This article is on the current state of mobile learning and where it is headed.  As to the posting, many people were excited about the metacognition enhancements that wearable technologies may offer one day.

36 High-Quality Flat Design Resources
Interface styles are changing— this post gives you some resources to help you adapt and transition into this new style.


Breakdown of the Types of Articles I Submitted/Shared

The following chart illustrates that a lot of my time in 2013 was spent investigating and curating three areas:


eLearning Development Skills
Surprisingly the majority of resources I shared in this category was on developing writing abilities.  Over the year I shared a number of articles on grammar tips, scenario writing skills and other general writing needs with the group. Another significant focus in this category was on specific industry tools.  I included links to articles on Captivate, curation tools and other software designed to support eLearning initiatives.

Trends in 2013
My next main category focused around trends going on within the industry. Curation, infographics, video and Experience API will continue to remain popular topics in 2014 and increasingly you will be asked about them.  In particular interactive video and Experience API will be touted as the next thing you need to be doing— get familiar with these technologies so that you can use them appropriately.

Innovative Course Designs
Many examples of innovate course and content designs were shared with the group. Here these examples highlighted how the use of pop culture references and game mechanics can increase engagement.  In addition, these posts illustrated creative uses of mobile and new interface designs that could be used for your content.

This Is Almost the End

In this light you can see that I haven’t been totally slacking- hopefully next year though I’ll be able to give the site more attention.  As to the topics that took up my time, I’ll get to these more in my annual End of the World post that is due out soon.  Meanwhile enjoy the holidays.



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.


How the Jedi Masters Let Us Down


We live in a world where we as educators are competing with other knowledge sources—here our students are inundated with content and in my last post I talked about some of the problems with this. As our world evolves, our role as educators needs to change to address this competition. Here we need to do a better job marketing our content to ensure that our students get the right information and that they get it whenever they need it. This is especially important after your students have left the classroom.

To illustrate this need let’s look at the prequels for Star Wars—here the Jedi masters didn’t develop their skills to counter competing knowledge sources. So when young Anakin was being drawn to the dark side he didn’t have a nice chunk of content to bring him back to the force. Rather in these movies, when times were challenging, he was left to his own devices.  And since George decided to make Anakin a big baby in the prequels—all Anakin did was cry, rage and act like a wuss—Anakin’s move to the dark side was pretty much assured.

It’s probable that some of you have a young Anakin or two and that you want to avoid similar results—adding curation as part of your role may achieve this goal.

 Curation Tools

Finding, organizing and distributing content is a great way to keep your student on track after your class has ended.  And these activities are exactly what you need to be doing as a curator. Here you can share articles, podcasts, videos and other sources of content that supplement or expand on the topics you have covered in class.

This reinforcement is nice as it can help your students transfer knowledge into their real life experiences. In addition it can provide them with a nice refresher on content that they may not have used for some time.

The following table presents some tools to help you gather, organize and share content—with these tools you should be able to continue to guide your young padawans:


Type Examples Comments
Subscriptions  services Most web 2.0 sites allow for subscription services. Here you can sign up at the forum or topic level to get the latest content.This content is pushed to you through daily or weekly emails. LinkedIn Groups and Yammer are some specific sites that allow for subscriptions. This content is usually limited to one source and as such may present a narrow view of a topic.In addition these services usually require a membership account.  Tracking multiple memberships can be a hassle and may add to the level of spam in your inbox.
RSS Readers Most web 2.0 sites support RSS feeds. Here you can add feeds to your reader to get the latest content from a site or series of sites.Specific examples of RSS Readers are Google Reader, Feedly and Flipboard. Many of these applications are starting to use social networks to connect with trending information and recommendations.  In addition these connections facilitate the sharing process needed for curation.
News Aggregators These sites gather content through user submissions and automatic feeds.  These sites are often organized around topics and can use ranking features to separate good content from bad.Some examples of these types of sites are Digg, Google News and elearninglearning. These site gather content from many sources and they can help you find interesting content that you may have missed with other means.
Topic CurationSites These sites are focused around a specific topic that users create.  Here users can create pages that contain links to articles and resources on a topic.You can use these sites to tell a story or bundle a series of content around a theme. Once created others can access your page to review your content.Some examples of these sites are Storify, Bundlr and Delicious. These sites give you a platform to gather content on specific topics and themes.  Once set up you can easily share this information with your students.
Self Aggregation and Publishing These sites gather content based on feeds and search parameters that you define.  Once setup they publish a daily or weekly online paper that your students can access.Some examples of these are, News360, and Postano. These tools can connect to social sites to gather content relating to trends and recommendations. By doing this they can learn what you like and gather content around those likes.The publish aspect is nice as your students have a dynamic source of content that they can continue to access.
Social Feeds and Live Streams Social networking sites allow you to interact with your connections and networks.  Here you can see recommendations, likes, and trending information in your network.Some examples of sites like this are LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Many of the above sites are connecting with these technologies and using them as recommendation mechanisms.These sites make it easy to share information as users in your network see and follow your activities.


As you use these tools you may see some common trends and themes with them. Here these technologies are starting to converge and soon you will see curation tools that contains the following:

  • Content you receive is tied to your social networks—here Likes, Retweets, … in your live streams will be included in your content results.
  • Push mechanisms like publishing and sharing content will be tied to your social networks.
  • These tools will adjust to your behaviors—here what you read, like, share, … will influence your content filters.
  • The user interfaces for these tools will continue to advance and follow a newspaper or magazine layout.

As you can see there are a lot of options available on how to collect and share content with your students.  This is great as we all know how Anakin turns out in the prequels and we don’t want that. Here we want to continue to guide our students after their classroom experience ends—we want to keep them calm, focused and away from the dark side.

And if they turn to the dark side, well then blame just it on George after all he was the one that messed up Star Wars:

I wanted to acknowledge Audrey Woita’s contribution to these curation posts . Through our discussions and interactions, Audrey has helped define and shape the ideas and thoughts presented on this topic. If you ever need information on curation or other training activities she is a great resource.

Audrey’s LinkedIn Profile: