Instructional Design Basics


Useless Gift Bags


A couple of weeks ago I received a gift bag as part of a tour. This gift bag intrigued me as it included a giant calculator and upon seeing it I thought, “Well this is perfectly useless.”

Saying this, I should note that mathematics isn’t one of my strengths and that a calculator should have been a great gift.  This would have been true several years ago, but we have Smartphones and other mobile devices now that can easily do this— so lugging around another device for calculations seems kind of silly.

This realization started me thinking about other tools and I came to the conclusion that we as trainers are doing the same thing, that is, we are giving outdated and useless tools to our students.   Here our checklists, reference manuals, note cards and other job-aids are still needed but in their current format, they fail to take advantage of our student’s mobile devices. So in a sense, they are a little outdated and kind of useless.

Today I’ll talk a little more about this and give you some options on how to make these items valued again.

Dead Weight

As trainers we recognize that our students may not need to internalize all of the information that we cover.  We also recognize that our students will forget or lose much of the information that is covered.  As such many of our strategies include ways to help our students access content after training has been completed.

Some of these strategies include giving our students manuals that they can go back to whenever they need.  We also like to develop process guides and job-aids that users can print out and use on the job.  Finally we may create reference materials that users can access to quickly find information that they need—phone lists, price guides and other like aids are handy tools to have available.

These needs are still true, but the problem with these tools is that rarely are these materials on hand.  Often when our students need this information they have to go back and dig up the manual, print out a new checklist, or find the reference list that was developed.  Rather than doing this though our students have found that winging it, asking someone nearby or just avoiding the task is often easier to do.

Because of this, we as trainers should be interested in making our tools more accessible to our students and a great way to do is by making these materials mobile friendly.  Here we need to recognize that our students are constantly connected with their mobile devices and that these devices could easily contain all of our tools and more.

By making our tools mobile friendly, we would not only increase the likelihood of our student going back to our content, but we could also help them realize productivity gains. Here by taking advantage of the computing power in these devices our tools could automate some of their work by performing calculations; triggering alerts and notifications; and exporting their data into other forms and devices.  These activities would then give our students more time to perform their other work and may cut down error rates associated with some tasks.

Mobile Performance Support Tools

In this light, moving your tools to a mobile friendly format seems like a great idea and to help with this need, I’ve developed the following table:






Now it may be awhile before you realize these mobile options, but that day needs to come. If not, then one day soon, your students are going to confront your tools like I confronted that gift bag calculator.


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: