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.



Rare Breeds in Elearning


The last Pinta Island tortoise, Lonesome George, died this summer.  George was found in 1971 and spent the last 40 years alone—lonesome was an apt name for him.

Unfortunately, our field has created some Lonesome Georges recently. New technologies and evolving skills-sets have made some specialized roles unnecessary or less important.

One recent rare breed is developers, as you no longer need real programmers to get your content online.  Today I will talk about this breed and why you shouldn’t count them out.

Problem Children

Over the years, I have had several incidents with developers on my projects.  These incidents usually center on them not doing what I want with the content.   A common scene in my world is, I turn in storyboards and wait for them to work their magic.  Then when I review it online and I am left thinking, “… this is nothing like what I documented in the storyboards.”

Conversations soon follow and in my experience, three common reasons are usually to blame for these instances:

 1.    Skill/Technology Gap

The developer didn’t follow the storyboards because they didn’t know how.  In these instances, they may lack the skills or technology needed in order to meet the needs as defined in the storyboards.  This is actually common—here technology changes and many programmers have to continually develop their skills.  In addition, many parts of our courses fall outside of traditional programming.  Animation, video effects,… fall into roles of multimedia development, which may not be something a true programmer knows or cares about.

 2.    Unclear Storyboards/Documentation

The programmer didn’t follow the storyboards because they didn’t know what I wanted.  Here my storyboards were not clear or very organized, so the programmer did the best they could.  This is also common as I am not always sure what I want—sometimes I only have a vague idea and it takes several iterations before my vision becomes clear.

 3.    Control Issues

The programmer didn’t do it because they didn’t want to. Unfortunately, programmers can be control freaks and this issue can sometimes appear in the middle of your projects.  When this happens, if they don’t like a design they may just ignore it.  Often the programmers have valid reasons for doing this—it could be a usability issue, back-end networking or security related.

Playing Nice

Regardless of the reason, whenever this happens it has the potential to become a problem that may require a crucial/challenging/difficult/… conversation.  In this regard, you need to pick your battles carefully.  Here you need to determine if your need is important enough to fight over, that is, is it worth the extra time needed to change the course back to the design in the storyboards and is it worth the potential damage to the relationship you have with the programmer—a relationship you may need later on.

In the least, you should talk with the programmer to see what happened and why.  This is important, as not following the storyboards, isn’t a good way to handle these situations. In this regard, it is easier to change a design around when it is at the storyboard stage than after it has been built. In addition, if there are design concerns then the programmer and ID should work together to define a strategy that will meet all needs.

Talking with the programmer can help you avoid these problems in the future.  In this regard, it can create a collaborative environment that will allow them to bring up their concerns before building the content. Involving the programmers early on in the storyboards is another way to avoid these problems—getting and addressing their concerns upfront will save time later.

Why You Need Them

It may sound like programmers are difficult to work with and that they deserve to fade out like Lonesome George, but this isn’t the case.  Our field is always changing and at the moment we are experiencing a rapid evolutionary cycle:

  • New technologies like mobile (SmartPhones, Tablets, eReaders), augmented reality, and location based content continue to define new needs.
  • Social networks, Open Badges and LMS integration (cloud and private) are creating opportunities for big data and recommendation engines.
  • Voice, touch and gesture interface systems are emerging and are changing how we interact with technology.

These technologies absolutely require real programming skills and can’t easily be addressed with standard course building tools like Articulate and Captivate. So continue to pick your battles and work on your relationships as developers may be rare but they are not dying out.

As a reference tool I’ve create the Types of Programmers document—maybe it will help you deal with these creatures.