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about other tools and I came to the conclusion that we as trainers are doing the same thing, that is, we are giving outdated and useless tools to our students.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 So in a sense, they are a little outdated and kind of useless.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.


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.