Instructional Design Basics


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.



Feedback you must give

Many years ago a young man named Daniel was learning Karate in order to defend himself.  His neighbor, an old Asian man, became Daniel’s teacher and employed an unorthodox approach to his training. This training consisted of having Daniel complete a series of tasks. Here the master didn’t provide much in the way of feedback—Daniel didn’t know why he needed to do the activities or how well he was doing at each task.  Needless to say, Daniel soon became frustrated with the training and was ready to quit.

If you go back farther in time, you will find Luke, another young man trying to learn the art of self defense. In this pursuit, Luke had an equally frustrating teacher—his master provided feedback but often spoke cryptically or in a way that was difficult to understand. Under this type of training, Luke soon wondered if he would succeed in his goal.

If you are a fan of movies from the 80’s you may have guessed the teachers I am talking about and if so, you may think that they were effective teachers. After all if you have seen the movies, then you know that their students succeeded in their endeavors. If you don’t know who I am talking about the below quotes may help:

Master 1: Daniel-san... [taps Daniel’s head] Karate here.  [taps Daniel’s heart] Karate here. [taps Daniel’s belt] Karate not here.

Master 2: …Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight.

If you still don’t know who the teachers are then you have missed a couple of classic movies.  The first teacher is Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid and the second one is Yoda from The Empire Strikes Back—and regarding training, you don’t want to be a Mr. Miyagi or a Yoda. That’s because each teacher failed to give their students proper feedback.

For instance Mr Miyagi let Daniel, “Paint the fence” and “Wax the car” for days before giving him any feedback on what or why he was doing these activities. And Yoda, well he was terrible at giving clear concise feedback, “Named must your fear be before banish it you can.”

Seriously Yoda, what the hell does that mean?

This lack of feedback was a key reason for their student’s frustration and initial failures. It is amazing that Daniel and Luke succeeded in this type of training environment at all as most students would have quickly failed and quit. Luke was strong in the force though and maybe that is what saved him here.

So assuming you don’t have skilled pupils, those strong in the force, you will need to give them feedback that is timely and clear.  Let’s take a look at some of these requirements.

Giving Detailed Feedback
I once had an Instructional Designer give me a job-aid that they had developed which outlined feedback requirements.  This job-aid stated that each instance of feedback should indicate:

  • If a choice was the wrong answer
  • Why it was the wrong answer
  • What was the correct answer
  • Why the correct answer was correct and
  • The area in the course where the content was covered.

Now some will agree with that designer and say that giving that level of detail is necessary. They may even proceed to pull out a study or two supporting their position.  And technically they are right—studies will point to the need for detailed feedback.

I however, immediately took this job-aid and threw it away.  I suggest you ignore it as well because few, if any, students will spend their time reading all of that content.  Online learners skim, skip and jump around in our courses—they don’t spend their time reading dense passages.

So instead of spending all that time writing out that extra detail feedback, focus on something that will really engage your users—make your course scenario based, add a good interaction, develop additional graphics to support your content, follow up with remedial activities or whatever.  Just don’t get bogged down in writing out a bunch of content that your users will not read.

What Feedback Should You Cover
Now if detailed feedback isn’t necessary, what then should you cover in your feedback?  My advice here is to tailor your feedback to your needs at the time. If why a choice was wrong is particularly important then hit that and let your students move on. If the correct answer is what is important then cover that well and let your students go.

One point I think that you should include in your feedback is to identify where the content was covered in the course.  Since your content is online you can probably link to the content directly, which will aid your students in their quest to scan through your content.

Limits You May Encounter
Besides your students wandering attention, other things may limit your feedback options. For instance the test engine we use at BJC only allows for 1 feedback option.  So with this limitation you can’t have specific feedback for each choice, rather you get one shot at feedback and it has to account for each choice in your question.  This poses a challenge and in this instance I recommend just indicating the correct answer, why it is correct and where students can find the content in the course.

This last option (where this content is located) may prove to be another limitation as courses and tests are usually separate learning objects within an LMS.  Linking between these separate objects (the course and test) can require advanced programming needs and if this is the case, I suggest referencing the topic or the specific page within the course.

By following these suggestions and giving timely and clear feedback you should help ensure your students success and maybe one day that student will grow up to save the universe or win some silly Karate tournament.