Thursday, December 20, 2007

My Objection to Learning Objectives

After reading this post, you will be able to:
  • Explain two of the reasons why Cammy Bean doesn't like learning objectives
  • Explain your own view of learning objectives
  • Develop an alternative approach to listing learning objectives in your next eLearning course
I hate writing learning objectives. I see the value. I do. At least from the instructional designer's and the business's point of view. Learning objectives clarify exactly what it is you're trying to teach. But I find them painfully boring to read and to write.

Ray Sims has written a great summary on Writing Learning Objectives, with citations to some good resources, including Vicki Heath's post Learning Objectives: Writing Learning Outcomes So They Matter.

Vicki states as the first benefit of learning objectives: "Learners can focus more easily on what is important to their actual workplace performance."

Her statement is in keeping with traditional instructional design theory that says that learning objectives help learners organize their learning efforts. And yet one could argue that most learners don't even bother reading them.

As Michael Allen says in Michael Allen's Guide to e-Learning: "Learners think, 'I'm supposed to do my best to learn whatever is here, so I might as well spend all my time learning it rather than reading about learning it." (p. 159)

The objectives page is one that I always click NEXT to slide right on by.

How about you? If you have ever taken an eLearning course (and be honest -- have you really taken an eLearning course?), have you taken the time to read those objectives? Really?

Write Better Objectives

One approach, as Cathy Moore demonstrates so well, is to write better objectives. See her recent post: Makeover: Turn Objectives into Motivators.

Michael Allen thinks better-written objectives are a start, but wonders if any form of the "textual listing of objectives [is] really the best way to sell anyone on learning." (p. 161)

Break the Rules
Allen urges instructional designers to break the rules: "Don't list objectives."

Pretty radical, isn't it? I called this one out as one of the top things I learned about learning in 2007.

Instead, provide some meaningful and memorable experiences using interactivity, graphics, animation, and storytelling.

photo by bb_matt

Alternatives to Listing Objectives

Here are some of Michael Allen's alternatives to listing out boring learning objectives in text bullet form:

Put the Learner to Work
(p. 161) Have the learner attempt a task. If they fail, they'll know what they are going to be able to do when they finish your program (hopefully, complete the task).

Use Drama (p. 165)
Create a scenario showing the risk of what could happen if the learner doesn't learn the content -- and the benefits that will happen when she does

Create a Game Quiz (p. 166)
Instead of a traditional, boring assessment, create a game-like quiz. Based on their performance, learners will see if they are beginners or advanced, and where their gaps in knowledge might lie. And they'll be able to see what kinds of tasks they should be able to do at the end of the course.

Check out Karl Kapp's Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning for some simple game ideas.

Have you experimented with alternatives to listing out learning objectives? Do you have any good stories? Have you had a client push back when you've tried to eliminate the learning objectives page?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Happy Holidays from Enspire Learning

Brought to you by those creative cooks at Enspire Learning in Austin, Texas: How the Finch Stole E-Learning.

May all of our skill sets grow three sizes in 2008!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Things That Light Up My Life

This is a geeky instructional designer moment. But here it is.


photo by tanakawho

What's been lighting up my life this week is when I hear a Subject Matter Expert say, "Let's cut that. Let's go with your Less is More."

It's music to my ears.

(With another client, however, I've had the exact opposite experience. That SME wants more content, wants more explanation, wants more jargon. Can't win 'em all, but I'll keep trying.)

What geeky instructional design moment have you had lately? What's rocking your world?

Friday, December 14, 2007

I'm a Gamer 3.0!

If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you know that I've been really into the whole topics of gamers -- who is, who isn't, and should we even use that term? I had a poll a while back, Are You A Gamer?, that sparked a good conversation.

Now a few of Karl Kapp's students "(Nicole Clark, Heather Gee, Aaron Kennelly and David Robbins) have created a fun little assessment tool called Gamer Rater that helps you determine what level of gamer you are according to Games, Gadgets and Gizmos for Learning. You progress through a series of choices you make throughout a typical day and at the end you are given a summary and a brief description of the type of gamer you are."

I'm so pleased. It turns out I am a Gamer 3.0er. Which means I've lost more than a decade, putting me somewhere in my late 20s.

A couple of issues I had with the game:

  • If you're asking friends over, would you invite them to play a board game or a video game? I'd like another option here -- invite friends over for dinner (which is probably take out) and watch the kids run around until they pass out.
  • If you want to buy a book at the store and they don't have it, would you have the employee order it or use the kiosk? I would never have bothered going to the store in the first place if I knew just what book I was buying. I would have bought it from
  • If you go to the gym, do you listen to the radio or an mp3 player? My response was "gym, who has time for that?" When I do have the time, I'd rather walk in the woods and listen to the wind.
Anyway, I've got a spring in my step today feeling so young.

How 'bout you. What kind of a gamer are you? Go on, play the game.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Big Question

This month's big question from the Learning Circuits Blog: What did you learn about learning in 2007?

I learned that connecting with the blogging community has helped me get more passionate about my work as an instructional designer. I'd go so far as to say that I've reinvented myself as a learning professional. Connecting with other people creates motivation.

Which brings me to my next point. And this is definitely not one of those things that I'm learning for the first time, but here goes:

Motivation is everything!

Over the past two weeks, I've had the privilege of watching my 4 1/2 year old son learn how to write. The motivation? Santa Claus.

N: "How will Santa know what I want for Christmas?"

Me: "Well, we'll have to write him a letter."

I'd assumed this meant he would dictate and I would write. But we got home and he went for the pencils and paper and dove right in. Only a mother and Santa Claus could have read his first effort, but wow.

Last night he wrote a birthday card to my mom. Sentences. Legible. Amazing. (Am I a proud mom, or what?)

Now granted, the plastic brain of a 4 1/2 year old is pretty different than your average adult learner's brain. Nevertheless, us old folks are still primed for learning when we are motivated.

I am reminded of that college econ class that my father pressured me into taking. I was so not motivated to be there, plus the professor was a jerk. Worst grade ever.

Motivating Learners in Learning Designs

As I've been writing courses on fascinating subjects like Six Sigma and financial software training after financial software training, I've been trying to keep that motivation carrot out in front.

Some things I've been trying to apply:

  • Put it into context. Explain exactly why the learner should care about this stuff. (You'll be safer. You won't get fired. You'll do a better job. You'll make more money.)
  • Keep it short and sweet. Less is more.
  • Show, don't tell. The learner wants to know what they need to know, not the detailed legal explanation. Thanks to Cathy Moore for reminding me of that one.
  • Forget the page of bulleted learning objectives at the beginning of the course. "At the end of this course, you will know how to..." What learner really bothers reading that crap? Instead SHOW the learner what they will learn. Create a scenario, add a little drama and risk. Thanks to Michael Allen's Guide to e-Learning for that tip.
So what we I learn about learning in 2008? Any guesses? I'm primed and ready.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Blog of the Week

Ego boost alert for this Bean: Donald Taylor has cited Learning Visions as Blog of the Week 13.

I'm blushing.


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Instructional Design Central

Travis Jordan, a recent graduate from Utah State's Instructional Technology program, has created Instructional Design Central, a collaborative website for professionals in the fields of instructional design, and E-Learning, and performance improvement.

Instructional Design Central (IDC) is an online portal dedicated towards providing professionals, researchers, and students with instructional design (or instructional technology) resources and community collaboration.

This site links you to the following information and resources:

Travis posted a link in a Zoho Forum, which I stumbled upon thanks to a Google Alert on instructional design. Travis is looking for suggestions on ways to improve the site and community.

Travis, this looks like a great start. I'd suggest including information on which degree programs offer a distance learning option.

eLearning Guild Demo Fest: Sun MicroSystems

The eLearning Guild hosted a webinar this afternoon featuring the winners of The eLearning DemoFest which took place at the DevLearn Conference & Expo on November 7, 2007.

The Winners Were:
  • Seal Works - Ariel
  • Can Do It, LLC, 3-D Instructions
  • Sun Microsystems
  • OnPoint Digital, Sales Quenchers - mLearning
  • KPMG - Expense Reimbursement Training
  • Oxygen Education - Emag machine

I wasn't able to sit in on the full session, but what I saw was worthy of passing along, particularly the Sun Microsystems New Hire program, which uses web 2.0 technologies and gaming to create a unique onboarding experience.


Sun Microsytems

Brandon Carson, instructional designer

Project: New Hire Experience “Join the Network”

Sun has put a real focus on telecommuting -- many employees don't work in an office.

Publicly available training program.

Wiki Platform

  • Using Web 2.0 tools to create a new hire experience
  • Built using the Confluence Enterprise Wiki platform
  • Brandon said they were “corrupting the real idea of a wiki”. Not truly a collaborative learning platform.
  • Strong visual aesthetic.
  • In a true wiki, anyone can get on and change content. Sun added a lot of page-level restrictions.
  • Lots of widgets on the site
  • View other users who are logged in and talk to them
  • Watch videos of CEO, corporate commercials
  • If logged in behind Sun Firewall, see Tag Cloud and more links to internal information.

Game Based Learning

Finding more effective ways to teach about Sun and the business.

Game based learning programs that teach high level info about business, mission values. “You’ve just joined Sun – now you’re an action hero!”

To get to the game, click on the PLAY icon on the home page, or just go there right now.

A click through text-based adventure game: Dawn of the Shadow Specters

  • 20 minute experience
  • Writing a relevant story and wrapping that around important content
  • Not real interactive – mostly reading the story, exploring different rooms, picking up objects

Video Type game: Rise of the Shadow Specters

  • NetGener demographic with exciting twitch speed game play.
  • Teach about business practices with more serious puzzles and gameplay. Traditional video game.
  • I think he said that it uses REAL game controllers.

More Project Facts

Response so far has been – revolutionary for Sun – lots of good feedback.

  • Average age of Sun employee is 42
  • Project cost: $150K in external vendor costs
  • Project length: Created over 4 months.
  • Development Team: 1 instructional designer, 6 game developers, 5 wiki developers, plus additional designers

View the Sun New Hire Project.

I just saw that Tracy Hamilton posted her notes from the session as well. She saw the first two presenters.

I was just looking at the Enspire Learning website, and it looks like they did the development work on the Shadow Specters Game for Sun.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Smell of Books

I can't see myself getting an Amazon Kindle. I like sitting on the couch with a book and a cup of tea, thumbing through the pages, smelling the paper and the ink.

Mark Oehlert's response to Tom Crawford on the Kindle reminded me of a New Yorker article from last month, in which Anthony Grafton concludes that paper books are an anthropological record of their times and of the people reading it. The article is mostly about Google Book Search, the massive project to "build a comprehensive index of all the books in the world." Which I think sounds like a good thing.

But Grafton points out some of the more subtle things that are lost when books are digitized.

FUTURE READING: Digitization and its discontents; Anthony Grafton; November 5, 2007; The New Yorker.

And yet we will still need our libraries and archives. John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid have written of the so-called “social life of information”—the form in which you encounter a text can have a huge impact on how you use it. Original documents reward us for taking the trouble to find them by telling us things that no image can. Duguid describes watching a fellow-historian systematically sniff two-hundred-and-fifty-year-old letters in an archive. By detecting the smell of vinegar—which had been sprinkled, in the eighteenth century, on letters from towns struck by cholera, in the hope of disinfecting them—he could trace the history of disease outbreaks. Historians of the book—a new and growing tribe—read books as scouts read trails. Bindings, usually custom-made in the early centuries of printing, can tell you who owned them and what level of society they belonged to. Marginal annotations, which abounded in the centuries when readers usually went through books with pen in hand, identify the often surprising messages that individuals have found as they read. Many original writers and thinkers—Martin Luther, John Adams, Samuel Taylor Coleridge—have filled their books with notes that are indispensable to understanding their thought. Thousands of forgotten men and women have covered Bibles and prayer books, recipe collections, and political pamphlets with pointing hands, underlining, and notes that give insights into which books mattered, and why. If you want to capture how a book was packaged and what it has meant to the readers who have unwrapped it, you have to look at all the copies you can find, from original manuscripts to cheap reprints. The databases include multiple copies of some titles. But they will never provide all the copies of, say, “The Wealth of Nations” and the early responses it provoked.

Photo Credit: Books by algiamil on stock.exchng

Monday, December 03, 2007

Top Posts in 2007

Snow is falling general over Massachusetts. It's the kind of day here in New England when you turn inward and take stock of the past year. Me, I'd mostly like to take a nap.

Instead, I cracked open Google Analytics and pulled up my top 5 posts for the year (well, my top posts since September 1 when I started using Google Analytics):

The Real World, Second Life, and Facebook/MySpace
: Over the summer, I conducted a series of interviews with over 20 current college students and recent graduates. All female. I noticed some interesting trends in real-world usage of all these applications. #1: No one had even heard of Second Life.

Getting Started in Instructional Design
: in which I point to some useful resources for those just getting started in the field.

Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning: my review of Karl Kapp's recent book contribution to the training community.

Instructional Designers -- Do You Have a Degree in ID?: An ongoing survey of instructional designers.

Emerging Technologies in eLearning: Notes from a live blogged session with Gary Woodill of Brandon Hall Research.

Photo credit: IM Birchall from stock.xchng