Monday, December 29, 2008

7 More Things You Don't Need to Know About Me...

I did the 8 Random Facts About Me Meme a ways back. Check it out. It's all still true.

Does this cover me for the 7 Things You Don't Need to Know About Me Meme that Sue Hickton just tagged me to do?

If not, here's 7 more tidbits:

1. I think I'm an inherently lazy person. To put a positive spin on this, I call it being extremely efficient. I try to get the best work done with the least amount of effort. I could also say that it's exhaustion -- a by-product of motherhood -- three kids ages 5 1/2 - 7 months will do that to a person.

2. My father always referred to me as his "eldest unmarried daughter" until I got married. Then I became his "eldest married daughter." My Dad had a few standard lines. I miss them.

3. I have two older brothers.

4. As a kid, I wanted to grow up to be a writer.

5. We just captured six mice in our house within the span of a few days. Unfortunately, there are still more of the little poopers running around.

6. I have been told that my 3 1/2 year old daughter looks exactly like I did at that age. I think she must be WAY cuter than I was.

7. I live at the end of dead-end road with a little stream running through the backyard and a forest of trees to look upon.

I'm supposed to tag seven other people, which I'm feeling really lazy about. So I'm just doing six.

Janet Clarey
Christy Tucker
Wendy Wickham
Michele Martin
Dave Ferguson

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

New Product Announcement

Just in time for the holidays:
"socially-networked virtual game-based blended mobile cloudy-learning 4.0" delivered on a portal for your iPhone.

A collaborative enterprise-based, just-in-time learning solution created on Twitter with help from:
@jzurovchak @bschlenker @moehlert @bjschone @Quinnovator with peanut gallery comments from @Dave_Ferguson.

Coming soon to a Target or WalMart near YOU!

Merry Christmas everyone! I'll be back next week.

Photocredit: Target, Checkout Line by The Consumerist

Friday, December 19, 2008

Best Practices for Software Training?

mousecapture This has been the year of software training.  I've been involved in I don't know how many training modules, ranging from the overly long to the shorter chunked variety. 

(Remember, all I do is online, self-paced eLearning).

We've taken scenario-based approaches, so the learner can sit with an expert and watch how he does his job using the software. 

We've inserted pictures of these characters to give a course more life and interest.  

We've added thoughtful, process-based questions in the middle of the software demo to break things up.

Some of it's been cool stuff; some of it's gotta be grueling and not so much fun to sit through.  Sometimes there's just time to make it good enough.

The next project I'm about to take on is going to be more of a just-in-time performance support tool.  Short demos (some with practice) linked right from the software itself.

What have you been doing in the software training world of late?

What are your best practices? 

What's working best with today's crop of software learners?

Photo credit:  Hey guys, I captured the mouse! by Darwin Bell

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Blog-o- the-Month at ISTE Island in Second Life

Imagine my surprise when Scott Merrick contacted me, letting me know that Learning Visions had been nominated as Blog-o-the-month on ISTE Island in Second Life.

Imagine my even greater surprise when Scott told me that I had "neatly edged out [my] competition to grab the title for the month of December 2008."

Thanks for voting! I feel most honored, and rather surprised given the other great bloggers that were also nominated in December:
Take some time to visit Scott at his various blogs and learn what he's been up to in Second Life:

And be sure to check out the Blogger's Hut in Second Life, which has its own cat AND a skating rink!
I'm Bliss Yue (get it?) in Second Life, but I have to admit that it's been ages since I've been in-world.

How about you? Anyone have any interesting SL adventures to report on?

Monday, December 01, 2008

My Facebook has Tipped

Malcolm Gladwell says that everything has a Tipping Point, that point at which a virus goes epidemic, when the hip new thing goes mainstream. Think Uggs.

Well, my Facebook world has just tipped.


I'm not talking about the quantity of my friends, but rather the breadth and depth.

In the past month, I have friended or been friended by:

  • my 73 year old mother (we like to play Scrabble)
  • my 16 year old niece (she has WAY more friends than I do, which is not surprising)
  • former students
  • almost everyone I used to swim with in my high school swimming days
  • long lost college roommates
  • my oldest brother

What started over a year ago as a professional experiment in the name of eLearning has just gotten plain weird.

Has your Facebook tipped?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Meeting Face to Face

Yesterday I had the pleasure of working on-site with a client for the day.

This is a group I've been working very closely with for the past year. Although I talk to many of these people on an almost daily basis, I had never met most of them in person before. Nevertheless, their voices are deeply etched in my brain, and I could have picked any of them out of a lineup if we were going by voice and not visual.

When you don't meet someone in person, you still paint a picture of them in your mind.

So yesterday, I got to meet these people and see their real faces -- not my made up ones. The universe has shifted slightly as I've adjusted my images. It was a bit disconcerting at first. I had to keep staring at each of them hard as I replaced my old pictures. More hair. Younger. Older. Unexpected beards.

The bonus of so many of the social media tools we use is that our pictures are attached. It's nice to know who you're really talking to.

This is me, in case you were wondering:

I still haven't bothered trying to figure out how to change my blogger image from that damn apple!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Best Online Collaboration Tools with Robin Good

Live blogging this session from the Corporate Learning Trends & Innovation Conference with Robin Good.

The end of the content God. The teacher now serves as mentor to help us create the best thing together.

So now we're going to edit a mind map together using mindmeister.

Login issues -- Robin says, "when you're trying something new, we've all got to be patient..."

Everyone's adding tools to the different categories on the MindMap -- whoa. Lots happening all over the place.

This is my first mind mapping experience so I'm mostly learning how to use a mind mapping tool.

Together we're producing something new and unique -- 150 users adding tools and URLs to the mindmap at the same time.

Feeling like the exercise itself is the learning event -- not so much the listing of individual tools (although that's a bonus) -- but seeing how everyone's collaborating. Very cool.

Robin really goes with the flow when things aren't working well on the technical side. Very enthusiastic -- fun presenter...

Robin's Summary:

Learning collaboration is all about trying new things, making mistakes, experimenting. When we come together with such energy, we can really create fantastic work. When we catalyze about something we enjoy, it's really fantastic.

Check out the mind map we created here.

Whew! What a whirlwind.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Webinosh with Dr. Will Thalheimer: Smile Sheets

WillThalheimerI sat in on a great lunchtime webinosh with Dr. Will Thalheimer on smile sheets.

My live blogged notes were beautiful and then poof -- my machine crashed and my notes are gone. The sorrow.

(Please oh please can I throw this laptop out the window now?)

I won't attempt to recreate them -- don't have the time.

But it was great, and I highly recommend you attend his next session on context.

Dr. Thalheimer's focus is on bridging the gap between research and practice. That's the kind of theory I can sink my fingers into.

Bottom line on smile sheets:

Favorable returns on smile sheets have little correlation with the overall value of the learning experience.

Dr. Thalheimer talked about ways he's been trying to make smile sheets more effective so that they can be used to tell us something valuable about the learning experience.

Look for a sample smile sheet on Dr. Thalheimer's site (type smile sheet in the search field).

If you're lucky enough to be going to DevLearn next week, Dr. Thalheimer will be presenting. Make a point of sitting in .

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Learning About eLearning: Browse My Stuff

eLearning Learning Featured

Tony Karrer has just rebranded and launched eLearning Learning. It's kind of like Technorati, but community focused around the singular topic of eLearning.

I've added a widget to my blog's sidebar that lets you browse my stuff (it does the tagging for me, so I don't have to). If you click on a topic you'll go to the hub, where you can access posts by others on the same topic.

Let me (and Tony) know what you think!

Blogger's Hut in Second Life

Scott Merrick (also check out Scott's SecondLife Blog) runs the ISTE's Blogger's Hut in Second Life. Scott's Twitter bio describes him as a "teacher, learner,...old hippy." Just the kind I like!

I hadn't heard of Blogger's Hut before I got Scott's email telling me I'd been nominated as Blog-O'-the-Month. How kind!

If you spend any time in Second Life, all November visiting avatars will have the opportunity to click on the polling object in the Hut and vote for a blog to be featured throughout the next month in the RSS feed located within the hut.

Stop by the Blogger's Hut at, to vote!

The Blog-o'-the-Month for November is Dr. Z Reflects, Leigh Zeitz's stellar offering to the educational community.

At the very least, check out these blogs, some of which are new to me.

Blogs up this month:

It's been awhile since I've stepped a virtual foot in SL (my ancient laptop does not have the right video card for SL), but I have blogged my past experiences in SL. Check out my forays into SecondLife.

SecondLife has sort of slipped off my radar these days. How about you? Is it something you're still thinking about? Has SL lost some of its traction over the last year?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Getting to Good Enough

"Don't let good enough get in the way of perfect."

This adage works for me most of the time as I'm designing eLearning courses.

Right now, I'm feeling like just getting to good would be an achievement.

Client demands, project schedules -- sometimes all you can do is churn it out.  Right now, I'm proofing a storyboard that's full of endless text bullets and boring software demos with no interactivity -- and there's really nothing I can do about it.

What would you do if you were me? 

A.  Cry.

B.  Just do it.  The client's paying the bill after all and this is what they've asked for.

C.  Hope next time will be better.

D. Other.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Guesstimating Seat Time

Many eLearning projects are priced out based on expected "seat time" -- that is, how long the learner has to sit on his or her butt to learn (watch!) what needs to be presented/taught.

I've never been that good at estimating seat time and often end up with projects that are longer than they're supposed to be. This is not good from either the learner's point of view or the development team's.

I have a lot of issues with the whole "seat time" model (and I'm thinking about sit and click style eLearning here of the self-paced variety):

  • My seat time may be different than yours
  • Is there supplemental material, like reading, that is optional -- or that might vary per user?
  • How interactive is the course going to be?
  • Is the user being forced to watch every single page or do they have freedom to jump around.
  • ETC.
  • ETC.
What would you add to this list?

There's some metrics floating around: such as 4 hours of classroom time = 1 hour of eLearning time. But that varies wildly if you're talking software training vs. something more complex and soft.

How do you estimate seat time?

Or, better yet, what's the alternative to seat time as the basis for a pricing model?

Photo credit: Shock and sorrow: chair mass grave by emdot

Thursday, October 09, 2008

27 Inspiring Women Edubloggers

I'm humbled (in that "feeling like a fraud" sort of way) and also inspired to be included with some really great bloggers -- some known to me, and some brand new.

Thanks, Zaid!

Janet Clarey
and Michele Martin helped start the conversation that led to Zaid's new list.

For more conversations on women in blogging check out these posts:

Friday, October 03, 2008

All The World's A-Twitter

I've succumbed to Twitter.

After reading Jane Hart's article Understanding Today's Learner, I realized I'd better be walking the talk and trying out all the hot new "learning" tools.

So Wednesday, I signed up. Within minutes, I was greeted by a number of people. That sort of freaked me out and I momentarily panicked -- how do I reply back and just how did they find me so fast? (oh, yeah, I decided to "follow them" and they got an email from Twitter).

Sue Waters sent me off to a great post she'd written on getting started with Twitter.

Within 34 minutes, I was a pro. Sort of. Not a bad start-up time, if I do say so myself.

Like Tracy Hamilton, I'm enjoying the endless thought streams. I know that Karyn Romeis has a cold. That Janet Clarey and Clark Quinn were watching the vice-presidential debate last night.

I'm having fun hearing the stream of people's activities and thoughts ("ambient intimacy"), but is that all there is to it?

SoulSoup sent me a link to a post he'd worked up on Twitter for business.

It feels endless now -- all the places I need to go to keep in touch with my peeps: my phone, my email account (Outlook for work, gmail for life); Facebook; Google Reader; Twitter. I know people consolidate and slim down (Brent, for instance), but I'm not sure I'm ready for that challenge.

I'll let you know what I decide.

How 'bout you? Do you Twitter? Why? Why not?

I'm cammybean on Twitter.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Blogging the Personal

Janet Clarey's recent post On Growing Facial Hair is right up my alley of interest. But frankly, I have nothing interesting to add to the conversation.

In fact, I've had very little of interest to add to any conversation of late, mostly because I'm much more focused on my personal life and the many transitions I'm handling there. If I were to blog it all, we'd be WAY off the topic of instructional design.

If the women bloggers who make Zaid's next list are the ones who don't interject their personal lives into their blogs (ala Cathy Moore as reported to Michelle Martin), then I don't think I'll make that list. Which is fine. Really. Blogging's not a contest...

But personally, I like the personal. And yet, I also like my boundaries.

Of course, I do see some connections that bridge the gap between my personal and professional lives:

  • My 3 and 5 year old kids are at the end of their first month of Montessori school. I'd love to apply Montessori principals to eLearning instructional design.
  • My son is really into his Wii. We've had to find some more age-appropriate games than Super Smash Brothers and the like. Recently discovered Endless Ocean. You're a scuba diver exploring different dive spots in a fictional spot in the South Pacific. Awesome experiential game. Kind of like Second Life in how open the environment is, but there are challenges and a bit of a story woven into that keep it a game. Plus, swimming around with whales is really cool.
So. This is me trying to get my blogging energy back.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Connectivism: Week 1

With little time these days, I'll be auditing the auditor's version of the 12 week Connectivism course happening now. I haven't signed up anywhere, I haven't taken part in any of the sessions, but I'm like a moth drawn to the flame: as I peer in on all the conversation beginning to happen, I can't help but join in. In my own lazy way, at the very least.

As I sift through this week's reading assignments, I'm trying to pick out how this learning theory effects my work as a creator (an instructional designer) of self-paced eLearning experiences for the corporate market. (Justifying why I might spend my time doing this...filtering this info through my own context in order to create patterns that make sense to me and can be applied to me...)

Little nuggets that stand out to me:

George Siemens writes, in Connectivism: Learning Theory or Pastime of the Self-Amused?:

Educators today face challenges relating to: (a) defining what learning is, (b) defining the process of learning in a digital age, (c) aligning curriculum and teaching with learning and higher level development needs of society (the quest to become better people), and (d) reframing the discussion to lay the foundation for transformative education—one where technology is the enabler of new means of learning, thinking, and being. (p. 9)

Stephen Downes (What Connectivism Is) talks about the role of the teacher = model and demo; the role of the learner = practice and reflection. The best self-paced eLearning does this well, providing scenario-based learning and demos with plenty of opportunity for reflection and practice.

More on this later?

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Instructional Designers with ID Degrees? Survey Results...

The great thing about blogs is that you don't even have to be around, and people still come visiting. I haven't posted in ages (hoping this will start to change as my work-life settles back in), but responses are still coming in to my survey.

As of today, 166 instructional designers have responded to the survey: Do You Have a Degree in ID?

About 34% of instructional designers have an advanced degree in ID. And 66% of us don't.

As reported earlier, there continues to be a wide range of backgrounds for IDers, mostly in the liberal arts.

Take the survey now.

View the latest survey results here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

In Loving Memory of My Father

Captain Robert M. Morrison (USN Ret.)
January 20, 1933 - August 18, 2008

Monday, August 04, 2008

Back to Work

Monday was my first day back to work after almost three months. I put in a nice five hour effort, appearing on site at our new office space. Citrus colored walls, big windows that let the sun pour in. Not too bad.

So. What have I been doing all that time? Enjoying the best summer vacation/maternity leave of my life. My husband is a stay-at-home-dad, so we had the benefit of two parents home all summer with the kids. And a completely mellow baby, who appears to be a good sleeper. The way it should be!

I did this:

A lot of this:

Some pleasure reading, which included 50% of the complete works of Jane Austen (that's three novels...but no, I'm no Janeite), Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, Michael Pollan's The Ominivore's Dilemma (which only took me about four months to read, but was well worth it), Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point, and Barack Obama's Dreams From My Father (still in progress, but summer ain't over).

A bit of gardening. Tomatoes every night this week!

Finished up some lingering sewing projects (and yes, I did finish that baby blanket I started knitting last winter).

Baked a lot of cookies.

I have thought surprisingly little about things eLearning and instructional design, although probably more than you would think.

I've got a fresh and open mind. Committed to enjoying my work -- 'cuz if I don't enjoy the time that I have to be away from my family, then it would just be hell, wouldn't it?

Expect to start hearing from me again, although probably in spurts and dribbles.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Best Project Ever

A baby girl. Born on Sunday. Yes, ahead of schedule by a few days! No name yet. People find this very disconcerting -- an unlabled person -- but we're waiting for the right name to appear stamped on her forehead.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

No News

That is to say, I have not yet had this baby.

My official "due date" is not until May 21, but I've been hoping (as all expectant mothers do), that this is one project that would be delivered a bit early.

Can't project manage these things...

In the meantime, I've taken the last week off from work to do things like: hang out with my kids and husband, garden, cook, fold laundry, hang out with my parents, get my teeth cleaned, nap, knit, and various nesting projects.

My instructional design postings will be sporadic, at best, over the next few months. Unless I decide to post about the absolute lack of instructional design manuals that come with new babies!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Making Six Sigma Training Fun

So Many Ducks OK. Maybe it's not possible to make Six Sigma eLearning fun. But I've tried.

And to be honest, it wasn't quite Six Sigma, but close.

This manufacturing process training course was originally delivered as a four hour plus death-by-PowerPoint classroom session (if you could see the original PPT source content, you'd begin glazing over within a few slides).

I went out on a few limbs here and tried to design something different. Within certain parameters as defined by the client (of course).

Here's some of what I tried to incorporate in order to (we hope) create an engaging experience:

Less is More. Cut, cut, cut.

Cut my breath

Of course, SMES pushed back on this approach during story board review.

But when I hear someone telling me that this is the spot in the classroom session when the users start drooling and staring out the window, don't you think that's a good place to simplify?

Storyline. I created characters that the learner follows throughout the course. "Meet Pete and his team." Learn from this manufacturing group and how they applied these principles to their work place.

And we made it fun. Rubber Ducks! Everyone loves rubber ducks, right? Applying concepts to a fun, but real-world scenario to ensure better knowledge transfer and retention.

Got some pushback on this one, again from the SMEs. "Is it too juvenile?"

Devil DuckWhen reviewing the alpha version of the course, I made sure to have their team have actual end-users take the course and see what their responses were.

End-users thought it was fun. SMEs felt a bit threatened by this fun take on their sacred content. The juries still out.

Games! We created three or four mini-games scattered throughout the course to test concepts. Of course, we used rubber ducks whenever possible to create some fun graphics and exercises. For design inspiration, I took a few pages out of Karl Kapp's book Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning.

Using Audio. I tried to make more effective use of audio. Avoided reading text heavy pages word-for-word. But I got pushback. "Unless there's audio on every page, our user's will think it's broken..."

Better Assessment Questions. I wrote scenario based questions that were about context and concepts -- not rote memorization skills.

Navigation. I tried, but couldn't convince my client to go with open navigation. We had to go with lockouts, meaning the learner must go through the topics in order and can't advance to the next topic until the previous topic has been completed. Alas.

Overall Feedback. So far, the client likes it, but there's some uncertainty. "This is unlike anything we've done before." Which can be a good thing and a bad thing, right?

Do you think I went too far with the rubber duck motif? Did I threaten a sacred cow?

Photo Credits:

Monday, April 21, 2008

All Work And No Learning...

Lately, work has just felt way too busy. No conscious time to stop and smell the roses; to reflect on what's been going on and why; to incorporate any lessons learned. There's barely any time to even think if I've learned any lessons.

Sometimes I just want to punch in the proverbial time card and go home and do the rest of my life. Or sometimes the next project or task slams right into me and there's no time to breath.

But how lame is that?

When this kind of grueling, work cycle hits, aren't you in danger? Not just of burnout, but of being stuck in the mode of repeating the same mistakes again and again? Of continuing to do the same crappy job, because you know how to crank out that kind of crap in the necessary time frame?

How does one build learning into work -- how do you build learning into work -- when you just don't feel like you have the time?

Here's some of what I've been trying lately, in an effort not to let some important lessons slip by -- in an effort to keep the passion and NOT enter burnout land:

Take notes. Instead of just relying on my faulty memory ("Oh, there's no way I'll forget that..."), I've been taking notes: In my paper notebook, in Google Notebooks, an occasional Jott to myself. Things I could've/should've/would've done differently, if only...Ideally, I'd blog about my experiences more, but frankly, I just haven't had the time.

Verbalize. Speak the mistakes out loud to other teammates, if I can. This helps internalize it.

Be open. Always try to learn from the mistakes; don't just brush them under the rug and pretend they didn't happen. They did. [I've been working on a knitting project for the past few months and have learned more undoing stitches and fixing mistakes, than anything else. Some mistakes I've left in the piece -- humble reminders of my own imperfection. That, and some things just aren't worth going back to fix -- but at least I can understand what I did wrong all those rows ago].

Take time off. Create a light at the end of your tunnel. I've got a maternity leave to look forward to pretty soon. A different kind of focus, a lot of opportunity to make different kinds of mistakes, but it will be a change in pace. If I didn't have that on the books, I'd certainly need some time off...

What else?
  • Read blogs (yes, but I haven't had the time to focus -- instead I skim -- not nearly as satisfying...)
  • Lessons learned meetings (do people still do this? We talk about it, but there's rarely the time. Suggestions?)
So how do you keep your passionate learning mind open when you're working your butt off?

This post was written rather hastily as a humble contribution to the April 2008 Working/Learning Blog Carnival. Be sure to check out all the other great contributions!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Instructional Designers Poll: Market Sector and Advanced Degrees

My original survey on Instructional Designers and Advanced Degrees had some holes in it. For awhile now I've been wondering about Market Sector differences in ID. I want to know if there's a difference in the ratio of working instructional designers with advanced degrees in the corporate and academic sectors.

Please take the latest poll!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Instructional Designers with Formal Training: Survey Update

As of today, over 119 responses to the ongoing survey Instructional Designers: Do You Have An Advanced Degree?

37% of IDs say "Yes, I do have a formal/advanced ID degree."
63% of working IDS say "Nope. I'm flying on intuition and experience and informal learning."

Only 13% of those without a degree say they have ever been denied work as a result.

38% of respondents have been in the field for just 3-5 years. Is that a spike in the amount of ID work going on? Or is this a high burnout field that people don't stick around in for too long?

I'm still curious about the breakdown in degrees between the corporate and academic sectors. What's the ratio of IDs working in corporate with advanced degrees vs. academic?

The survey remains open indefinitely. Chime in, if you haven't.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Hiring Women in 1943. You Go, Girl!

This has very little to do with eLearning - although I'm sure those of you with a creative mindset could think of something! It's certainly good for a laugh on a busy morning.

A client sent this scanned page to me this morning. A reprint from the July 1943 issue of Transportation Magazine (as reproduced in the September/October 2007 issue of Savvy & Sage Magazine: Getting the Most of Midlife and Beyond).

Hiring Women - 1943

Here are eleven helpful tips on the subject from Western Properties:

1. Pick young married women. They usually have more of a sense of responsibility than their unmarried sisters, they're less likely to be flirtatious, they need the work or they wouldn't be doing it, they still have the pep and interest to work hard and deal with the public efficiently.

2. When you have to use older women, try to get ones who have worked outside the home at some time in their lives. Older women who have never contacted the public have a hard time adapting themselves and are inclined to be cantankerous and fussy. It's always well to impress upon older women the importance of friendliness and courtesy.

3. General experience indicates that "husky" girls - those who are just a little on the heavy side - are more even tempered and efficient than their underweight systems.

4. Retain a physician to give each woman you hire a special physical examination - one covering female conditions. This step not only protects the property against the possibilities of lawsuit, but reveals whether the employee-to-be has any female weaknesses which would make her mentally or physically unfit for the job.

5. Stress at the outset the importance of time the fact that a minute or two lost here and there makes serious inroads on schedules. Until this point is gotten across, service is likely to be slowed up.

6. Given the female employee a definite day-long schedule of duties so that they'll keep busy without bothering the management for instructions every few minutes. Numerous properties say that women make excellent workers when they have their jobs cut out for them, but that they lack initiative in finding work themselves.

7. Whenever possible, let the inside employee change from one job to another at some time during the day. Women are inclined to be less nervous and happier with change.

8. Give every girl an adequate number of rest periods during the day. You have to make some allowance for feminine psychology. A girl has more confidence and is more efficient if she can keep her hair tidied, apply fresh lipstick and wash her hands several times a day.

9. Be tactful when issuing instructions or in making criticisms. Women are often sensitive; they can't shrug off harsh words the way men do. Never ridicule a woman - it breaks her spirit and cuts off her efficiency.

10. Be reasonably considerate about using strong language around women. Even though a girl's husband or father may swear vociferously, she'll grow to dislike a place of business where she hears too much of this.

11. Get enough size variety in operator's uniforms so that each girl can have a proper fit. This point can't be stressed too much in keeping women happy.

Today's challenge: apply one of the eleven helpful tips mentioned in this article to eLearning/instructional design.

I'll start:

#8 Give every girl an adequate number of rest periods during the day. You have to make some allowance for feminine psychology. A girl has more confidence and is more efficient if she can keep her hair tidied, apply fresh lipstick and wash her hands several times a day.

Another argument in favor of chunking your eLearning into 10-20 experiences. If I don't have the time to apply fresh lipstick during an eLearning course, then I just won't finish it!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Jott This Blog

I haven't had so much time lately to blog, as this project I'm working on has been quite grueling.

I find my best time for thinking up excellent blog entries is late at night when I'm lying in bed. That is, of course, if I'm even awake after the kids have finally fallen asleep.

Now I'm trying to maximize my time on the drive to work. Today, especially, my ideas are fresh from a restless night last night.

So thanks to Michelle Martin for turning me on to Jott.

jott_screen_3I am calling this blog entry in on my cellphone as I drive. When I arrive at work, it will be in my inbox. I'll simply have to cut and paste it into my blog tool, reformat it, and do some heavy editing. And then, presto magic, I have a new blog post.

It's taken a little getting used to.

Things I'm learning:

  • I have to talk much more slowly. Otherwise Jott doesn't get what I'm saying.
  • Jargon can be hard for Jott to translate. But it does a pretty good job and inserts [...] when it's not sure just what you mumbled.
  • You can only jott in 30 second chunks. I have way more to say than that. The answer is to immediately jott yourself again (and you don't have to redial the number, the lovely Jott Attendant asks you who you want to Jott when a previous jott is finished).

I arrived at work this morning to find 9 Jotts in my inbox -- fodder for a few blog posts at least.

(There's much more that you can do with Jott -- send Jotts to friends, send yourself reminders or txt msgs, create to do lists. I'm just scratching the surface here.)

Friday, March 21, 2008

E-Learning Project Reality: Guerrilla Instructional Design

I'll define it in one word: grueling.

Since November, I have been working on a big project for a brand-name institution: 29 self-paced eLearning courses.

Mostly software training, with bits of process and product information thrown in for good measure.

Courses range from 15-30 minutes each and are geared towards my client's external clients. No assessments or formal testing. Lots of software interactivity.

Most of these courses already exist as online, instructor-led experiences. I've got the PowerPoints and Word docs to prove it.

Relentless schedule. The lifecycle of an ideal course, on paper, is about 40 days. That's from initial content kickoff to final live courses.

It goes a little something like this:

Content Gathering

The first step is the contact kick off meeting. This includes myself, the instructional designers at the client company who manage things on their end, and any subject matter experts that they can assemble for the meeting.

We go through any existing classroom notes. We talk about the performance objectives. We review the content at a high level.

Generally, within a couple of days of the kickoff, I have a second meeting with the SME or course trainer. If possible, I sit in on a live training session. Schedules don't always work out, so more often this is a one-on-one tour of the software and the content notes with the trainer. Here we attempt to get into all the detail

Thankfully, I type really fast, so I've got a lot of good material to work with when I get to the next stage.

Story Boarding

If the stars are aligned, I immediately begin story boarding. Depending on the length and complexity of the course, this takes anywhere from 1 day to 5 days. Of course, this varies greatly depending upon how accessible the subject matter expert are to me.

Client Review

This is the single longest phase of this project.

Each course goes through an extensive review process on the client side, starting with the client's ID team and their SME team. The document is sent out to everyone, then the whole team gathers in a conference call and walks through the story board together.

Ideally, the team has reviewed the document beforehand and has all of their comments, but more often than not, this is their first look at it. I capture all of their comments, make revisions, and send out an updated version.

The client ID team wrangles the SMEs and gets more comments until we have a SME approved script.

Next, the story board goes to the client's editing department for copy editing. Have we dotted the right letters? Have we adhered to corporate guidelines?

From there, onward for a legal review to make sure all the trademarks are in the correct places and no false promises are being made.

This is where things get delayed and backed up: the SMEs and the legal department.


Once we have a final, legally approved document we can begin building the course.

The client takes all the screen captures because we can't have access to the software.

I prep the script and send it off for audio production (we've been working with an excellent independent guy with his own studio who can churn this stuff out!)

My development team builds the sucker. We've got this down to a lean and mean 5-7 days, which includes internal QA. We use a fairly templated approach, so at this point there aren't many bugs to discover.

Course Review

We post the course for the client team to review. Usually, this is another online walkthrough. Sometimes the SMEs have looked at it beforehand and have their comments all lined up, sometimes this is their first look at the thing. You never know.

We revise and fix. Sometimes have to record new audio. Occasionally have had to rewrite big chunks and send a story board back to editing and eReview because the right SMEs weren't initially included in the review cycle...or someone just didn't get that they really needed to review the story board...or....or. But that hasn't happened too many times.

Course Goes Live

We post the final course. The client IT team downloads all the files and puts it on their servers and the thing is live.


Instructional Design: When the Schedule Dictates What You Can Actually Do

So how much time do you think we have here for real creative instructional design? Not much.

This is the harsh reality of eLearning in the trenches. When great just can't get in the way of good enough.

This is what I've started calling guerilla instructional design. Get in and out as fast as you can with the fewest casualties.

But the client is delighted with what we've been producing. Initial feedback from actual end-users has been really positive. Something's working here.

Is That A Light At The End of The Tunnel?

  • This morning I sent off a first draft of story board #22.
  • About six courses have actually gone live.
  • Another four courses have been built and are in revision purgatory.
  • Another ten plus story boards have been written and are somewhere in the vast client review process.

The great irony is that the projected due date for the final course is May 21st, which also happens to be the due date of the real baby that is currently kicking around inside of me.

My client hopes I go late.

Photo credits:

Friday, March 14, 2008

Instructional Strategies?

chalkboardWhat instructional strategies do you use to make your content more memorable and engaging? I'm not just thinking about the gadgets and the gizmos that you use or the instructional design "method" behind the process (e.g., ADDIE), but rather the teaching tools themselves. Strategies that help learners connect with and remember the content.


"King Phillip Came Over From Geneva Spain"

Remember that one from high school biology? I remember the mnemonic itself, but not all the terms. Something like: Kingdom, Phyllo, C?, O?, Family, Genus, Species.

Luckily, these days I can quickly search online for a refresher.

I missed Class and Order. And it's Phylum, not Phyllo. But not bad for knowledge I haven't used in 25 years.

Wikiquote has a lengthy catalog of mnemonics for a wide variety of subjects, from bartending to home repair.

Do you ever develop a mnemonic for a custom course? Or chunk out your content and create an easily remembered acronym to remind the learner of the steps they need to follow?

I don't know if I've ever done that. But I've got a mind to try it out one of these courses.

Getting Snappy

I had an interview with an instructional designer the other day, who's developed and led a lot of instructor-led courses. She described getting her learners to "snap things out."

She works with the content, chunks it out, and creates snappy rhymes to help learners remember the material. In class, she has the learners walk around the classroom, chanting the rhyme and snapping it out.

Things might get a bit silly with all that snapping, but I bet it's effective.

How could you do that in an e-learning experience? How do you get your learners to get snap happy?

I'm excellent at creating ridiculous rhymes and ditties for my kids; I think I could come up with something interesting for a course.

Reflective Learning
mirror I learned this one from Clive Shepherd's 60 Minute Masters: insert moments of reflection into the course.

Create pauses in the activity to get the learner to stop and think; apply the content to their own world; make their own connections.

In a recent course, I designed "Think About It!" pages. The course asks the learner an open question. The learner can type their thoughts onto a yellow sticky pad on the screen. These aren't saved for managerial review, they're just a moment in time for that learner.

Time Well Spent

It takes more than rapid regurgitation of content to develop a mnemonic or create a snappy tune. My bet is many eLearning designers don't often have the time to develop creative instructional strategies. But, given the right course, it may be time well spent.

Other Ideas?

Here's a few more ideas off the top of my head:

  • Storytelling
  • Case studies
  • Role plays

What other strategies or approaches could you suggest?

Photo credits:

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Salaries for Instructional Designers

Are you wondering if your salary is up to snuff? Do you need a raise? Want to figure out what you might make if you were to enter the illustrious world of instructional design?

Here's a list of salary resources where you can find out more:

(I liked this one a lot. You enter your own salary and location and see how it compares to the averages in your region.)

(Kind of basic, but it's good to view another data set.)

ASTD (Warning, you need to purchase the article, which I didn't do...)

E-Learning Guild's Annual Salary Reports for the US and Canada 2008 (Lots of ways to cut the data here. Great report!)

[I discovered the first three links via a posting on the ITFORUM discussion list.]

Photo credit: $5700 by Andrew Magill

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Accidental Learning

Yesterday, on my evening commute, I head a wonderful essay by noted cellist Yo-Yo Ma for NPR's "This I Believe" series.


"Every day I make an effort to go toward what I don't understand. This wandering leads to the accidental learning that continually shapes my life."

I really like the term accidental learning.

It's more than informal. It's accidental. It's serendipitous.

So, what kind of accidents have you stumbled upon today? What unknowns have you crept into? What discomfort have you gone towards?

Photo credit: Cello Inlay by asluthier

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Instructional Design: Where's Your Center? Who's Your Master?

As you create training solutions, to what master are you answering?

Are you being content centric or learner centric? Or are you forced to be sponsor centric?

Content Centric Solutions

These are those courses that have the entire book of knowledge in 'em. Every software interaction and menu is explained in detail. It's all there. You've covered the content to death. And probably killed a learner or two in the process, if they even bothered to stick with it.

Learner Centric Solutions

This is what we're all striving for, right? That course that meets the needs of the learner. The right content, in the right format.

Sponsor Centric Solutions

Unfortunately, it's often the project sponsor who's really calling the tune. They claim to have detailed understanding of the learner. As the course designer, you're not encouraged or even allowed access to actual learners to get an understanding yourself. Perhaps that kind of access isn't possible, given the limited budget.

Or maybe what really matters is what the Senior VP of Training thinks of all this. If they like the colors and the interactivity and the general format, then they consider the project a success. Evaluation complete.

eLearning vendors (those that design custom courseware) are often handed the course to be built. The sponsor says "we want this eLearning course." So the vendor scopes it out and does the design work, the storyboarding, the development work.

But the bottom line is, the vendor needs to butter their bread and produce what the client has asked for.

What strategies do you use to ensure a project stays learner centric vs. sponsor centric? How do you ensure your consulting expertise gets communicated in a development project?

Photo credit: Spirals On Blue by Tanakawho

Monday, March 03, 2008

Metaphors of Instructional Design

In the exciting and sometimes heated recent debate on the role of instructional designers (The Value of Instructional Designers, Karl Kapp's We Need a Degree in Instructional Design, Learning Circuits Big Question for Feb) I've seen instructional design compared to:
  • brain surgery
  • interior design
  • carpentry
I certainly don't think it's rocket science nor do I think it's brain surgery.

I like the analogy Michele Martin uses: instructional design as cooking.

Most of us can cook a little something. Perhaps you're best at opening a box of frozen fish sticks and laying them on the cookie sheet and dumping a bag of frozen peas in a pot. In recent years, I've resorted to this meal quite often. Hey, I've got small kids and I know my audience. Which is critical in both cooking and instructional design.

Not all meals are created equal. Just like training experiences. Some might require that you simply follow the recipe; others may demand a five star experience:

Just Follow the Recipe

A lot of people out there can create a great meal by following a recipe to a T.

Of course, you need the right tools -- accurate measuring spoons and cups, and the right ingredients.

Muffins, spaghetti sauce, cookies, yum. There are still those who follow the recipe and end up with burnt yuck.

The Dump and Pray Method

My Granny followed the dump and pray method of cooking.

Admittedly, I never had the pleasure or displeasure of sampling her menus, so I can't say if this method worked for her, but I've found it works for me in the kitchen.

Granted, I've read a lot of cookbooks. I watch an occasional cooking show, but not as a rule. (I don't have cable, so I don't know from Rachel Ray). And I've cooked a lot. Generally, I know what works. I know how to carmelize a mean onion and have a good sense of my herb cabinet.

I've taken many a cookbook recipe and improvised, creating something new and innovative. I can step out of the box.

Many self taught cooks achieve culinary perfection through this type of of experimention. Can you replicate the meal the next time? Maybe yes. But maybe it's slightly different the next time 'cuz you've used more garlic.

The dump and pray method works best when you understand your audience. Do you know who's going to be eating this particular meal? And it works best when you know your tools and your ingredients.

Creating a Five Star Meal

I don't know much about the starring system for restaurants, but my limited understanding knows that it has to do with the complete experience. The right napkins and place settings must be used or you lose a star.

I was once making an omelete with a professional chef who showed me how to make the red pepper we were cutting up five star: each piece had to be the exact same size, all the white trimmed off, all the edges perfectly square.

I rarely see the worth in that. But then, I tend to prefer thick chunky, even in an omelete.

But there may be times when a five star meal is exactly what's required. In which case you need a five star chef who probably went to a high-end Culinary Institute of Learning and has the knife sharpening skills to prove it.

Instructional Designers as Chefs

Different eating experiences require different expertise. And I would argue that different training experiences also require different expertise. Back to Instructional Design as a Spectrum.

Sometimes we may just dump and pray -- and if you're good, you come up with something great. Sometimes you just follow the recipe -- perhaps using a rapid eLearning Template tool and a solid ISD model. Sometimes you need a five star chef.

If you've seen the recent animated feature, Ratotouille (I watched it twice while home sick a few weeks ago) then you know that "Anyone can cook." Even a rat.

Now I'm not saying that SMEs are rats, or instructional designers are rats....

So what are you cooking up these days?

Photo credits:
The Last Happy Chef by Mykl Roventine
Open Onion by Darwin Bell
Mouse Spaghetti Tastes Better When Cooked by Jannes Pockele

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

InVision Learning: Seeking an Instructional Designer

We're seeking a full-time Instructional Designer to join our growing company here in Westborough, Massachusetts.
Invision Learning is seeking an Instructional Designer to design leading-edge interactive multimedia and web-based eLearning applications. Our company specializes in Custom Courses, Flash Templates, and Learning Portals...
If you, or someone you know, is an experienced instructional designer looking for work in the greater Boston area, please let me know!

We're looking for someone with a focus on the content creation side; we don't expect or even want you to build these things. You'll work closely with our Flash designers and programmers who will do that heavy lifting. Your focus will be more on the client and content side. Check out my job description for a better sense...

(You'd get to work with me -- how exciting is that?)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

My Client is Addicted: Audio in eLearning

Cathy Moore had a post a few months ago (Addicted to Audio?) that inspired me to change my approach to using audio in eLearning. She suggested using audio sparingly.

So I've been storyboarding differently. When I see a need for a text heavy pages, I eliminate audio so as not to "depress learning." I avoided narrating onscreen text.

In the comments on Cathy's post, there was a bit of discussion about switching back and forth between pages with and pages without audio.

Yesterday, after round four of a storyboard review process (which has stretched out for months, by the way, due to unavailable/overloaded client SMEs), the lead ID at my client came back asking for audio on EVERY page.

The biggest thing I would like to see is that we add some voiceover on just about all of the slides. Based on experience here, our learners are used to having v.o. on just about all slides. They think the program isn't working when they come across a slide that doesn't have v.o. It doesn't need to be much - but there should be something (verbal instruction rather than just text for example).

Now, maybe I'm just jaded and want to get to an approved storyboard. Maybe it's the fact that I'm recovering from pneumonia and just don't have the energy to fight the fight. But I caved. And yesterday I just added audio back to every page. A little. A line here or there.

Can't win every battle.

The reality of everyday instructional design.

Photo credit: Microphone by hiddedevries

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Who Gets to Be Called an Instructional Designer?

A SME builds a course with the latest rapid eLearning tool. A teacher makes a leap into a new field and gets a job as an "instructional designer". A technical writer takes on a new challenge.

Are they instructional designers? If so, when? When do you cross the line and enter the hallowed world of Instructional Design?

Unlike medicine, interior design, or electricians, the field of instructional design does not require a license to practice. At least not yet. I never took a test that said I was actually an instructional designer.

So at what point does one "become" an instructional designer? What are the criteria?
  • Is it the number of courses you have created?
  • The quality of those courses? (And who graded them?)
  • Is it the number of theories you can cite?
  • The number of Gagne's events you can recite?
  • Is it your mindset? Your desire to figure out a better way, so you can create a better learning experience the next time around?
  • Is it a degree?
  • Is it your business card?
  • Does it matter where on the instructional design spectrum you fall and the types of learning experiences you create?
Who and what gave me the right to call myself an instructional designer? What about you?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Essential Reading for Instructional Design?

As an instructional designer/eLearning professional, what books are the essential tools in your reference library?

I'm not looking for the obtuse theory books. I prefer the get-down-and-dirty variety.

These are my current faves. Easy-readers (a term of praise, in this case). Practical books with lots of real examples. They might refer to theory, but they don't get bogged down in it:
Last May, I started a bit of a list in this post: Beginning Instructional Designer's Toolkit.

Dr. John Curry was kind enough to post a really detailed reading list in his post How to Get an Instructional Design Education Without Paying Tuition (gotta love that title!)

After my appeal for something a little more pared down that I might actually be able to read, Dr. John came up with these essentials:
Other ID books of note that have been recently recommended to me:

What would you add? Or can we stop? I'm already feeling a bit overwhelmed. Perhaps we need to start a lending library.

Photo credit: Little by MegElizabeth

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Theory vs. Application in Instructional Design: One Academic's View

A long time ago, I decided I was much better at the practical side of things than the theoretical.

I did great in Calculus AB(?) in high school, which involved solving problems like figuring out the volume of weird spaces. In college, at the urging of my father, I took the next "level up" in Calculus. This turned out to be a big mistake as it was all about proving theorems. I dropped out of that class halfway through the semester and decided I just didn't have the math/technical/scientific nature.

I'm still a really hands-on person. Perhaps this is why I never went back to grad school. Or maybe I'm just too lazy and poor.

Over the past few days, I've been having a back and forth with Dr. John Curry, an Assistant Professor in Educational Technology at Oklahoma State. Now, I'm not linking to John just because he is full of praise of me (which is nice and somewhat embarrassing, I must admit...), but rather because he brings up some interesting points about the disconnect between the theory of instructional design in academia and the actual practice of it.

See what John has to say in Instructional Design and Academia -- Where Theory and Practice RARELY Meet.

John asks,
"So does it matter if Cammy knows (and I have no idea if she does) what the Dick/Carey, Smith/Ragan, or Morrison/Ross/Kemp models are? What about Component Display Theory, Elaboration Theory, the Conditions of Learning, Learning Hierarchies, the ARCS model, 4C/ID, ADDIE, ASSURE, Schema theory, Cognitive apprenticeship, Social Learning theory, or Cognitive flexibility? Does she need to know those?"
Well. My truthful answer is that I've heard of some of these theories and theoreticians. I've even read about some of them. I actually have some books on my shelf that cover these topics. Admittedly, I may not have read all of the books.

Do you think it matters?

Photo Credit: Integral Calculus DSC00163 by Mr. ToHa