Instructional Design Basics


How the Jedi Masters Let Us Down


We live in a world where we as educators are competing with other knowledge sources—here our students are inundated with content and in my last post I talked about some of the problems with this. As our world evolves, our role as educators needs to change to address this competition. Here we need to do a better job marketing our content to ensure that our students get the right information and that they get it whenever they need it. This is especially important after your students have left the classroom.

To illustrate this need let’s look at the prequels for Star Wars—here the Jedi masters didn’t develop their skills to counter competing knowledge sources. So when young Anakin was being drawn to the dark side he didn’t have a nice chunk of content to bring him back to the force. Rather in these movies, when times were challenging, he was left to his own devices.  And since George decided to make Anakin a big baby in the prequels—all Anakin did was cry, rage and act like a wuss—Anakin’s move to the dark side was pretty much assured.

It’s probable that some of you have a young Anakin or two and that you want to avoid similar results—adding curation as part of your role may achieve this goal.

 Curation Tools

Finding, organizing and distributing content is a great way to keep your student on track after your class has ended.  And these activities are exactly what you need to be doing as a curator. Here you can share articles, podcasts, videos and other sources of content that supplement or expand on the topics you have covered in class.

This reinforcement is nice as it can help your students transfer knowledge into their real life experiences. In addition it can provide them with a nice refresher on content that they may not have used for some time.

The following table presents some tools to help you gather, organize and share content—with these tools you should be able to continue to guide your young padawans:


Type Examples Comments
Subscriptions  services Most web 2.0 sites allow for subscription services. Here you can sign up at the forum or topic level to get the latest content.This content is pushed to you through daily or weekly emails. LinkedIn Groups and Yammer are some specific sites that allow for subscriptions. This content is usually limited to one source and as such may present a narrow view of a topic.In addition these services usually require a membership account.  Tracking multiple memberships can be a hassle and may add to the level of spam in your inbox.
RSS Readers Most web 2.0 sites support RSS feeds. Here you can add feeds to your reader to get the latest content from a site or series of sites.Specific examples of RSS Readers are Google Reader, Feedly and Flipboard. Many of these applications are starting to use social networks to connect with trending information and recommendations.  In addition these connections facilitate the sharing process needed for curation.
News Aggregators These sites gather content through user submissions and automatic feeds.  These sites are often organized around topics and can use ranking features to separate good content from bad.Some examples of these types of sites are Digg, Google News and elearninglearning. These site gather content from many sources and they can help you find interesting content that you may have missed with other means.
Topic CurationSites These sites are focused around a specific topic that users create.  Here users can create pages that contain links to articles and resources on a topic.You can use these sites to tell a story or bundle a series of content around a theme. Once created others can access your page to review your content.Some examples of these sites are Storify, Bundlr and Delicious. These sites give you a platform to gather content on specific topics and themes.  Once set up you can easily share this information with your students.
Self Aggregation and Publishing These sites gather content based on feeds and search parameters that you define.  Once setup they publish a daily or weekly online paper that your students can access.Some examples of these are, News360, and Postano. These tools can connect to social sites to gather content relating to trends and recommendations. By doing this they can learn what you like and gather content around those likes.The publish aspect is nice as your students have a dynamic source of content that they can continue to access.
Social Feeds and Live Streams Social networking sites allow you to interact with your connections and networks.  Here you can see recommendations, likes, and trending information in your network.Some examples of sites like this are LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Many of the above sites are connecting with these technologies and using them as recommendation mechanisms.These sites make it easy to share information as users in your network see and follow your activities.


As you use these tools you may see some common trends and themes with them. Here these technologies are starting to converge and soon you will see curation tools that contains the following:

  • Content you receive is tied to your social networks—here Likes, Retweets, … in your live streams will be included in your content results.
  • Push mechanisms like publishing and sharing content will be tied to your social networks.
  • These tools will adjust to your behaviors—here what you read, like, share, … will influence your content filters.
  • The user interfaces for these tools will continue to advance and follow a newspaper or magazine layout.

As you can see there are a lot of options available on how to collect and share content with your students.  This is great as we all know how Anakin turns out in the prequels and we don’t want that. Here we want to continue to guide our students after their classroom experience ends—we want to keep them calm, focused and away from the dark side.

And if they turn to the dark side, well then blame just it on George after all he was the one that messed up Star Wars:

I wanted to acknowledge Audrey Woita’s contribution to these curation posts . Through our discussions and interactions, Audrey has helped define and shape the ideas and thoughts presented on this topic. If you ever need information on curation or other training activities she is a great resource.

Audrey’s LinkedIn Profile:


A Case for Informal

One day in the distant future I’ll ask my son to do something and he’ll indignantly reply, “Why.”

Yes—it is only a matter of time until Max cops an attitude. When this happens I’ll probably break out the standard, “Because I said so,” as this is the answer that I got whenever I asked that from my parents, teachers or any other person in authority.

But in this regard Max will have a point, asking “Why” is valid and not without merit.   We do need reasons for our activities—especially when those activities come at the expense of other needs.  Juggling priorities and resources is something that we deal with a lot in the training world and as such, “why,” is a question that you may be asked when looking at Informal and Social Learning pursuits.

Today I’ll give you a better response to this than, “Because I said so,” as that probably isn’t going to fly with those asking that question now.

Know Your Audience

In previous posts I’ve talked about the need to understand your audience. One of the main things to define here is their level of expertise—do you have a group of novice users or are they experts when it comes to your training content.  Such knowledge will help you determine your content and design needs.

For instance, if you have novice users you may need to add extra scaffolding and structure into your course.  Their lack of knowledge will hinder their choices on where to start, what questions to ask and their ability to determine how well they are doing (metacognition skills). All of this may mean you need to develop a linear and controlled course—the Tell, Show, Do structure works well here.

Focusing on those concerns though doesn’t mean you have covered all your audience, in fact, experts or those that have some expertise in your content have opposite needs.  A big no-no with learners in this regard is to waste their time—making them take a bunch of content that they already know or forcing them down a path they don’t need will alienate these students.   Your experts need the freedom and ability to skip over content that they already know.

This is something that we have recognized with our training and have addressed this concern by developing test-out options where appropriate.   Besides gaining the love of our students, these tests-outs have also saved a bunch of money in time saved.

So with experts and semi-experts it makes sense to hit this concern—only give the content that they need—here everyone is happy right?

Practice makes perfect

It would be nice if it was that simple, but as learning professionals we should be concerned with growing everyone’s skills.  By allowing experts the ability to skip content we are missing out on a chance to refresh their knowledge, practice their skills and improve their expertise.  In this regard we may meet the training and compliance requirement but that is it—here we are not changing or improving performance which is what training is suppose to be about.

So you have a dilemma when it comes to this group—do you force them to take training and waste time or do you let them test-out and forgo any improvement opportunities.  A Yogi like, “Yes” is the appropriate response to this dilemma.

Here you should support your formal training activities with informal learning.  These informal activities provide the chance to improve the skills of your experts without forcing them down a content path. Since these techniques tend to be on the pull side of training (users pull the content to themselves) you are giving these users the freedom and choice they demand—here what they take and when they take it is open.

Deep Thoughts

Besides giving them the freedom to practice their skills, these informal techniques also provide other benefits. Many of the Web 2.0 and 3.0 features used with Informal Learning activities are focused around user generated content.  Here posting content, replying to content, and rating content are all keys to creating an active environment.

And if you look at these activities and apply them to behaviors noted in Blooms level’s of learning you will find that they match up to his highest levels (synthesis and evaluation). So by participating in these informal opportunities, your experts may form a deeper understanding of your content.

This deeper understanding of content is something that I have experienced directly. In this regard,  I was an Instructional Design expert before I started this blog—I had the experience and formal schooling that said so—but since starting it my knowledge on ID has increased tremendously. By supporting your experts with informal learning techniques you will provide them with a means to achieve similar gains.

Improve Your Experts

So why indeed!

  • Is there a need to improve expert performance?
  • Is creating opportunities that allow for a deeper level of understanding a bad thing?

Hopefully in this light, your response to that question becomes a little clearer now. In truth we should aim to improve performance with all of our students, unfortunately though our formal training interventions are usually aimed at only doing that for novice employees.  Informal techniques though provide an environment that can foster this growth.


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!


Content Sharing and Bookmarking

There has been a lot of buzz around the idea of using Web 2.0 technologies for training initiatives. Much of this buzz has been around social networking applications like Facebook and LinkedIn.  However, two powerful and easy to adopt Web 2.0 technologies that haven’t received much attention is Content Sharing and Bookmarking. These technologies are perfect for training activities as they addresses one of the main problems with new users.

Novices by their nature do not have a lot of resources to go to when they are confronted with a problem.  Where to go or even what to ask may be a problem for these users.  Even when a novice finds a source of information, they may not be able to distinguish between a good/useful resource and a bad/misleading source.

As an expert you have a list of readily available resources you can go to when you have a question- you know web sites to check, articles or books which discuss your problem, or you have contacts that you can ask about your problem.

Passing on these resources is one way you can help informally develop your people. Using Web 2.0 technologies like Content Sharing and Bookmarking can help you pass on this information to your users.

Content Sharing

Content Sharing refers to Web 2.0 sites that encourage users to submit links to articles, images, videos, blog entries and other resources that they find interesting.  Once submitted, the users on that site can rate each resource.  Resources that get the most votes are placed at the top of the pages and those that get the least are buried.

This rating feature makes it easy to distinguish a good resource from a bad one.  Sites like Digg and Yahoo Buzz demonstrate how Content Sharing sites operate.

Social Bookmarking

Social Bookmarks refers to user created lists that are shared on Web 2.0 sites. These lists contain links to articles, websites, videos, and other resources pertaining to a specific subject.

Delicious is a site that focuses on social bookmarking.  Here users submit resources to specific subjects that can be accessed. Tags are applied to each resource. These tags order the content into categories and allow for open navigation to related topics.

Using these sites

By using content sharing and bookmarking sites you can develop your own list of resources that you can share and pass on to your people.  To help you see the potential of these lists, I have gathered a couple of resources that other users have compiled.

Now imagine having a similar list focused around a healthcare topic, such a list would be a great resource for a new user.