Instructional Design Basics


NSFW or Is It

Sometimes I have ideas that might be fun for courses but never get the chance to implement them.  The other day I had one of these on using Internet memes.  This approach wouldn’t work well for many audiences so I doubt I will get a chance to try it anytime soon.  So rather than let that idea fall to the wayside and be forgotten I thought I’d share it.

After all maybe you could find a use for it and if not, maybe it will trigger some other idea that may be more appropriate for one of your audiences.

One popular type of meme is to reuse an image to convey a concept—maybe it’s a bad friend that everyone has or a superficial complaint about having a difficult life. Regardless of the concept, these memes can be pretty funny and the 40 best memes of 2011 post has many great examples of them.

Make a Note of This

If you look at some of these memes you may start to see a connection to content pieces you have within your courses.  For example a lot of us deal with new software implementations and a lot of this content deals with:

  • Notes—this is content that highlights specific steps or values to use within the software.
  • Activities to Avoid—this is content that identifies specific steps or values to avoid within the software.
  • Selling Points—this is content that will sell or highlight why the software is useful.
  • Tips and Tricks—this is content that identifies activities that will allow you to use the software to its fullest potential.

So let’s take a look at how this content may get represented with a meme.  Here a popular strategy that is used with software manuals is to create note boxes for Notes, Tips and Tricks and Warnings—instead of the standard note box you could use a meme:





Other ways you may represent your other content pieces with these memes are:

  • Interrupting Kayne—could be used to identify Notes
  • Scumbag Steve—could be used to identify Activities to Avoid
  • Success Kid—could be used to identify Selling Points
  • Most Interesting Man—could be used to identify Tricks and Tips

Quote This

Let’s use another popular strategy to highlight how these memes could be used.  Here we can look at the quote boxes, which is a technique that is used to break up text and highlight a chunk of content that you want people to remember. With this technique you can highlight key information, facts/figures, or an interesting piece of content.  And a use of this might be:





Post This

Wallposts and Twitter comments are a common activity for many of us today and these activities can be a way to push content to your users. These informal techniques may engage your users in a way that your normal course content can’t and may lead them to access formal content for further learning.

To get this started you can use an avatar of one of these memes and start posting short content chunks.  Part of these messages can contain links for further information:





Where to Find Your Memes

The following sites can help you out with identifying memes but you might want to be careful when accessing them, as this content is not always suited for work.

Don’t let that stop you though as these memes are becoming more mainstream and a popular way to express ideas.  So today this may only be suited for a small audience (generation Y and some gen Xers) sooner or later though most of us will know what they are and be comfortable with their use.


The Art of Selling

In an earlier post I mentioned a need to sell ourselves to the big wigs, after all, without their support we can’t get the funding we need in order to implement our training solutions.   There is also another group of users that we need to sell to—our students and here we are selling content rather then our business impact.

This can be a difficult task and as such I’ve included the following link to give you some tips:

Whoa, that was close.

Ok so that isn’t a good lesson, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep trying. Today I’ll talk a little more about our need to sell content.

Attitude Adjustment

Often our training initiatives have attitudinal objectives that are aimed at changing student beliefs, feelings and predispositions. This type of content can be problematic as there isn’t an explicit way to measure changes focused around a student’s attitude. And as such, some designers argue that this need can’t truly be represented as training content.

However, I believe that these types of objectives are perfectly acceptable and that this content is absolutely necessary for successful interventions.  After all, most designers would agree that answering the “what’s in it for me,” question is a key part to getting our users to complete and implement training.

Here we know that people are resistant to change and so we need to make sure our students “buy-in” to the idea that the training will make their lives better. Failing to provide this motivation can mean that our students do not fully adopt the content or change their behavior.  Besides selling them this idea though there are other student attitudes that you may want to change in your interventions.

For example with the Infection Control project, there is an attitudinal objective that I want to cover on the need to value our patients.  Part of this is covered in the, “Describing consequences of poor infection control” objective, but more emphasis should be placed on reinforcing this attitude.  So in order to demonstrate a “value of our patients,” the students will also:

  • Describe our patients—who there are, what they have done, what they still want to do, …
  • State our patients conditions—how they feel, what they can expect to feel, what are their fears, …
  • Describe how other people are impacted by our patients conditions—family, friends, other patients, staff, …

Walk in My Shoes

With the attitudinal objective defined in those terms, I can start developing content as well as determine an appropriate strategy.  Specific techniques for teaching attitude objectives are similar to teaching Procedural knowledge.  These techniques are based off of the work of Bandura and call for you to:

  • Provide a persuasive message
  • Model the desired behavior
  • Have the student practice the desired behavior and then
  • Reinforce the desired behavior.

So for this part of the training, I plan on using twitter and other micro-blogging tools to create a collaborative environment.  Here role-playing and story completion activities will allow students the ability to interact within the content and model the desired behavior.   These tools will also allow me to create an environment that defines the persuasive message and model the desired behavior.

In addition, by using services like Storify I can expand the usefulness of the content.  With Storify you can bundle your Tweets with other articles, posts and media to develop a rich storyline that users can read as a whole.  This bundling ability allows you to shape the content as it develops.

As for content I haven’t made much progress yet as I am still playing with the technology and trying to find the right voice.  For now though I have created a Twitter account (@Indexpatient) and have composed several tweets with different types of structures:  Conversation,  Watching or listening to something,  Internal Dialog,…

And by reading these examples you can start to see the potential story telling abilities with this approach.  As your read these notice that you have the option to link to other content within your posts, this ability allows you to create a much deeper experience. In my example, a video slideshow relating to the story will play if you select the link.  You can use these links to expand the storyline or use them to cover specific content—maybe it’s a definition or a Wikipedia link on infection characteristics.

You should also note that each post provides the opportunity for others to reply, which can create the role-playing environment needed to model behaviors.  Here subject mater experts (SMEs) and trainers can take part in the role play or the students can interact with the story directly.

Getting this to work will take some planning but once the storyline is outlined, several tweets are ready to use and the various roles have been defined,  I can easily begin implementing an informal solution.

Practice Makes Perfect

In the movie I linked to earlier, Tommy Boy saves the day by learning how to sell. By practicing your skills with attitudinal objectives you can also learn how to save the day.  Here we can get our students motivated to take our content as well as shape their beliefs and attitudes.  There is a lot of power in this regard so make sure you are selling something good like valuing our patients.




Bringing in the New Year

As a member of generation X, I am familiar with the term slacker.  After all this is a label that some tried to apply to my generation and lately, I’ve kind of supported that line of thought.

Yes I’ve been slacking the last couple of months and my blog hasn’t received the attention it deserves.  It’s a new year though and as such I’ll use this as an opportunity to start over fresh.  I’ll also use it as an opportunity to change things up a bit.

Last year I focused on some of the basics with instructional design and online learning.  This year I want to move into a new area of study, one where I’ll be learning along side of you.  You see this is an area where I’m not an expert and so this will be an adventure for all of us.

As to this area, I plan on focusing on Mobile and Social Learning activities. My goal here is to develop several learning initiatives using various aspects of these technologies.

In this regard, I want to start from scratch – from idea to course objectives, objectives to storyboards, …   Here I want you to see how each initiative was developed, from the tools used to the style of writing needed.

As to specific initiatives, these details will come in future postings; however, aspects I want to explore this year include:

  • Role-playing activities using Twitter and other applications,
  • Augmented Reality (AR) applications for performance support activities and
  • Location based check-in games

Anyway it should be a fun year or as my boy Flounder says…


My Buddy and Me

I have a buddy that likes to talk, and when I say that, I mean the guy never shuts up. He will talk and talk until your ears bleed—and not just about one subject.  He’ll go on about his work adventures, how the Blues are doing, to an amazing list of other random topics.

All of this can be overwhelming and I have learned to focus my time with him to certain activities and company.  These limits are my way of setting filters on him to get him to talk about things that are interesting to me.  And this works—we get to hang out, he gets to talk a bunch and I get a new perspective on items of interest.

In an earlier post I talked about how your novice users may lack resources for when they have questions.  Social content sharing and bookmarking sites can help them gain these resources.   However, using these sites or even the common, “Google it” method may provide them with an encounter similar to my buddy and I.

Here they may be overwhelmed with too much information or with items that may not be of interest/use. To help in these situations there are additional tools that can create better filters for your users.

RSS and Readers
Many websites have RSS capabilities that will allow you to set up a subscription. Once setup, any update from that site(s) will populate to a central RSS reader or website. The beauty of this is that you no longer have to check a bunch websites to see their updates. Rather you can periodically check your news reader for updates and then open up any posts that are interesting from there.

Google Reader is currently the most popular reader and has some extra features that add to your ability to accumulate and share content.   Some of these features are:

  • Share—When you find an article or site that is particularly good or useful you can share that content directly to your users.  Google Reader has a network ability that allows you to connect with friends and peers.  With this network you can choose to share items directly or rank them so that your users know what is good content.
  • Organize—You can also add some metadata to useful content to help you find these items later.  Here you can add a Star to a resource to indicate that it is good or you can add a specific tag to it.  These features make it easy to go back and quickly find useful content.
  • Find—Google Reader has several features that make finding new content easy.  If you are new to a topic you can subscribe to a bundle, which has predefined site subscriptions already setup.  As you use the reader more, the software can also recommend sites for you to read as well as filter articles up in your unread list.  Some trending information is gathered as well so that you can read what is popular at the moment.

Filtering Content for Your Users
These readers will allow you to organize and gather a lot of content on specific subjects.  Once you have this data organized with tags or ranked with stars, you can create lists for your users—lists that contain links to the useful content you found.

You can share these lists directly with you users by creating a web page with all of the links on them. Then you can send out the URL to that web page or link to it in a course to create a static page of relevant information for your users.

You can also create a dynamic list by building a blog.  RSS technology is standard with most blogging software, so you can create blog entries that contain links to the useful articles you find. Then you can add a RSS reader to a website or course that is subscribed to your blog.  This would create a dynamic connection for your users—they would see the most relevant and recent information you find.

What About Twitter and Live Data Streams
RSS and Readers have been getting some slack from the Web 2.0 crowd lately. To them this is an old technology and doesn’t keep up with the live data streams you can get with Twitter and some of the other newer technologies.   This is a valid point, as it can take a significant amount of time before you create the resource content with the above system.

This however is a good thing as it forces you to act as the filter for your novice users.  Here you are the expert and it makes sense for you to create the filter. A problem with the live data stream option is that there isn’t this filter, which means that it is only a matter of time until your users meet my buddy.  For instance a stream with Twitter may look something like:

My Buddy:  Blah blah blah,

My Buddy:  Blah blah blah,

My Buddy:  Something interesting/useful,

My Buddy:  Something inappropriate,

My Buddy:  Blah blah blah,

My Buddy:  …

My buddy is a good guy and has some interesting thoughts, but do you really want him training your users?


Drinking Kool-Aid

Ok I’ll admit it. I don’t get microblogging or twitter as many refer to it. I’ve tried to get into it. I have even created an account or two but I still don’t know what all fuss is about.

Yes I know you can follow people and trends; market yourself or your website; and use it to track down where everyone is meeting at for the night.  And all that sounds good, but every time I try to use it I get stuck.

In saying this, you may think that I would be a poor source of information about how to use twitter for training activities—you would probably be right, regardless…

As mentioned twitter and other microblogging tools can be a good way to market your materials. In this case you are using it as a pull mechanism, that is, you are using twitter to pull users to your content.  Here you can send out messages about a course or class to encourage users to sign up for those events.  Your messages can be simple text messages, images, links to additional content, podcasts or even videos.

The form of these messages may include endorsements from key stakeholders; facts and figures explaining the need for the training; and other normal marketing techniques used to gain interests in your content.

These tools can also be used to push content directly to your users.  Here you are using these tools to send out specific content that you want users to internalize. These messages may include small bites of content like facts to know, key steps in a process, a basic rule to follow or any other important content that can be squeezed down into a small chunk.

You can also push out specific questions and problems that you want students to consider. Using these tools in this regard creates a way to start and facilitate discussions on your content.

Something with Potential
I guess all that stuff is good but it isn’t all that new.  We’ve been using push/pull techniques with online training for years.  It’s also not very exciting- it doesn’t seem like something that will engage users any more so then the other techniques we’ve used for years.

So maybe that is what has me stuck and until I find something unique and cool about these tools my attitude will probably remain a simple:


Fortunately, I have found some articles, which have the potential of changing my mind on these tools.   The first article talks about how a user set up an account to create a role-playing environment.  In this environment he and others acted as characters from a video game that they liked. While in this environment they expanded the storyline of the game with the messages that they sent back and forth.  The second article shows an example of how a user setup a series of twitter messages to develop a Choose Your Own Adventure book for users.

By following like applications you could use these tools to connect to and expand your content. Here you are creating a bridge to your content and expanding your universe where your content isn’t static—it’s dynamic and can change based on your user interactions. These applications also follow a game like flow, creating an engaging environment for your users.

What You Need
So that seems cool, I wonder what you would need to do something like this…

Well the first thing is a story and characters within your content. In the CLL we have a couple of series that would make ideal applications.  There is Professor Lester and his focus on safety; Dr Bolus and the Sugar Sleuths with their focus on patient care, and our newest star, Jackie Bauer and her determination to save the day.  The Infection Control group also has a start with this in their germ character that is a common theme in their courses. Imagine getting a tweet like this:


Next you need to tie in and bridge to your content.  You’ll need to define people to play your characters and give them guidelines to follow. Then let them go at it— initially you may need to do some marketing to build and maintain your environment.

Finally you will need a microblogging tool; fortunately this is the easy part as there are many out there.  For BJC you will probably want to use Yammer as there is a current organizational account with this tool.  Since it is organizational, only BJC employees will have access to the story and content that you create.  To sign up for this tool all you need to have is an active BJC Groupwise email account.

Sounds easy huh, well maybe not but if you want to try it, I’m game for now!