Monday, September 28, 2009

What’s the Difference: Learning Designer vs. Instructional Designer?

Someone got to my blog the other day by searching on “what’s the difference between learning designers and instructional designers?”

Good question.

In my last job, I was the Manager of Instructional Design.  Now I’m the VP of Learning Design.

Did I make the leap because I work for the UK mothership – and that’s what they call it across the pond?

Are we – as in the collective we of the eLearning ‘industry’ – making a conscious shift away from Instructional Designer since no one on the outside knows what that means?

Is Learning Designer more descriptive?  Is it more all encompassing?  Am I now thinking about learning solutions – all the myriad ways to help someone actually learn – not just how to feed someone up with a little instructional tidbit?

Is this a general trend or just me?

What do you think??

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Brent Schlenker: Marketers and Game Developers Know More About Learning Than We Do!

Live session with Brent Schlenker: Marketers and Game Developers Know More About Learning Than We Do! hosted by Training Magazine Network.


Disclaimers: “I am not a marketer or a game developer.”  (Although he plays a LOT of games).

When he listens to game developers talk, feels like they’re in the learning prof.

Everything IS about learning. 

Brent’s background:

What I am:  15+ yr learning professional, lifelong learner, player, consumer.

  • news – using media to tell stories.
  • Masters degree in Instructional Systems Design Process
  • 10 years at Intel working in tools.

How do we use new and emerging technologies in the learning space?

We don’t typically create the new tools in eLearning – that innovation is happening in other places – e.g., marketing.

What’s coming down the pike so we can prepare our learners for them?

Point of today’s conversation: talking training, design and development if a marketing person were doing it. Or a game developer.  What cool things are other areas doing that we can leverage to make us better designers and developers?

Comment (Julie S):  “My first boss said that training is very much selling.”

Marketers are REALLY good at understanding who their target audience is.

People, Context, Content

Corporate ISD:

  • When working with a Subject Matter Expert (SME), they have a tendency to put everything into the training.
  • In corp learning space, we have a tendency to give in to that.  We bow to the will of the SME…
  • Little room for creativity

New technology gives us new tools. 

Marketing Depts:

  • Marketing dept always has the money.  That’s where most creative talent in organizations go.  This is where business finds the value, which is why marketing is where the dollars go.
  • They also get the resources to analyze the data.
  • What are they doing that’s different?
  • How do they measure success?  Are the expectations on marketing depts greater than on training? 
  • Marketing brings in the money.
  • A big part of marketing IS education --  what is the product? how does it add value?  why should you buy it?  This is the greatest connection between what we do…

Learners need to change behavior…which is what marketing does. 

Event-based learning vs. Learning Campaigns

Marketing talks about a CAMPAIGN. Learning talks about a curriculum.

A campaign is a series of events/operations/continuing storyline – not just a “set of courses”.

A campaign that’s a continuous storyline involving a set of adventures and characters (learners) to achieve a set goal…

Design and develop learning campaigns that involve storylines, adventure, social media, people – every campaign has a structure to it – there is a formal development/design process.  But there’s room to move. Different media involved in an ad campaign.  Let people engage with others in the learning process.

New tools make this easier to implement from cost perspective, but still a big time cost to developing/designing learning campaigns.

A learning campaign is different than a marketing campaign.  It’s not about t-shirts and email blasts – it’s about providing more ways for learners to engage with and access content.

World of Warcraft:  getting people into a shared space to figure out together how to get the boss (the bad guy).  Someone in comments wrote “sounds like a business strategy meeting!”

Get the Learner’s Attention

We use a lot of “fake” ways to get people’s attention…fun flash movie and then slide into the boring content…but I got their attention!  (Yes, we need to sustain that attention.)

Each person’s individual desire to learn something is what makes for engagement.  We’re not talking about “dressing up” content to fake that it’s engaging.

Book Recommendations:

Made to Stick (idea of attention – marketers do something shocking and unexpected, “unexpectedness”.)

A Theory of Fun (“games are puzzles to solve, just like everything else we encounter in life”)  The most serious issues we have to approach are puzzles.

Don’t just read learning design and pedagogy books.  Extend what you can do – think outside of your field.

Common Craft Videos

Great at explaining.  Now companies are coming to them to do marketing – to explain their products.


Why are these so memorable?  What can we learn from these infomericals?  What are they doing – how do they display information and what' they’re teaching us about their product?  Seems like an ID at work in there.

YouTube – videos – short hits to educate.  30-90 seconds.  A whole lot of info, but the right info when you need it.

Production costs have dropped – we can start adding a lot more media/engagement to our programs.

Quickly produce short tips.

Attention – ways marketers and game developers get our attention.  They do this well.

Analysis – really know their audience.

Objectives --

Measurement --

What you can do?

  • Keep it quick
  • Make it short
  • Be really creative
  • Make something that actually affects behavior (marketers want people to change their behavior – drink pepsi not coke, drink coke not pepsi)
  • Make it truly memorable

Don’t just need IDs on your staff – get some creatives in there who look at things a bit differently.

Understand gaming theory and gaming design. 

Put the customer/consumer/learner first.  We say we do…but we don’t often do it.

The best stuff is not trickery – it’s an engaging game; it’s a great product or service.  That’s all.  (Jeopardy is really kind of lame…)

Monday, September 21, 2009

eLearning Authoring Tools Review -- Help!

I am working on a presentation in a few weeks about eLearning authoring tools. A high level overview for learning and development types who don't actually use the tools, but want to know what's out there, when you might use it, and some of the pros and cons.

Now, I'm not much of a tool user myself. I've got some understanding of tools. But I would love the input of some actual tool users -- or perhaps recipients of eLearning created with those tools. Experience counts. Any experience.

Could you help me out and go play around with this mind map here? Feel free to add tools (Once you're into editing mode, just click on the central hub of the diagram and click Enter. Mindmeister seems to be a pretty easy tool to use. Go on. Try it!)

Our output will be the property of everyone -- so feel free to add to, share and reuse.


Friday, September 18, 2009

As eLearning Ripens on The Vine

grapes As eLearning matures (let’s just agree that this is the case), are you finding any differences in the complexity of the types of eLearning you are creating? 

In my early days, I wrote a lot of software training courses.  Instruct, Demo, Practice, Test, Rinse, Repeat.  Something like that.  CBT did the job.

Is it just me and my particular career trajectory and things seem to be getting deeper now?  Or has this complexity been there all along and I was just skating along in a parallel universe? 

Are the expectations for eLearning actually getting more demanding?   Are we seeing a real shift from just information and declarative knowledge to real expertise development?

I guess the obvious answer is yes.  We must be.  We have to be.  Businesses are looking for eLearning to fill more of the training need.  Universities and institutions are transitioning to online curriculum.

So as designers, we – (and by this, I mean I) – need to be better prepared to create more complex training programs. 

(This is when I start thinking about going back to grad school.  Yes, me.  I think about it.  I really do…)

Photo credit:  white grapes on the vine by roblisameehan

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Lance Dublin: Formalizing Informal Learning

[My notes from a webinar.  Missed the first 20 minutes…sorry!]

Lance Dublin:  Formalizing Informal Learning ….&#%!? Why? How?  Presented by Training Magazine Network

Diagram of the learning process:

  • Input: you can get input in lots of ways
  • Organize
  • Apply
  • Evaluate

(in a wheel – each of these is a subprocess)

Looking first at learning.

In a disconnected learning system:

Need. Learning. Performance

The Learning process is often disconnected from the need and the performance.

The Search Engine = “great big white box of hope.” (Lance’s trademark term!)

A High Performance Learning System has Need/Learning/Performance all cycling together.

How can we add more to Learning to get to high performance?

Need to think about New Learning Principles:

  • Rapid
  • Mobile
  • Collaborative
  • Immersive (we don’t want to be lectured at)

Formal vs. Informal – a spectrum

Examples of a formal learning activity:

webinar, classroom, lecture, etc.

What made it formal?

Structure. Planned with objectives…intention.

Examples of informal:

Water cooler, SoMe

Informal learning is never intentional.  Formal learning is intentional.  [I disagree with this! I use my blog/twitter with intention.

Lance asks:  What happens if you add intentionality to an informal activity?

It moves it on the contiuum.  It’s not black and white.  It’s not informal vs. informal.

Marcia Connor’s four-square chart from 2004 (pre web 2.0):

Formal (classes, elearning, meetings)/Informal (community, teaming, playing)

Intentional (reading, coaching, mentoring)/Unexpected (self-study, exploring, internet surfing)

The choice is not informal vs. formal.

Intentionally Informal:  reading a blog, twitter, etc.

Take Marcia’s view to 2009:

Formal/Informal vs. Intentional/Unintentional

Formal intentional:  classes, meetings, elearning, virtual experiences

Informal unintentional: social media, search, conversations, play, life.

Intentional Informal: reading and searching, coaching and mentoring, blogs, wikis, some, etc.  This is the sweet spot.  Taking tools and using them in a new way – add intentionality to them.

These are all tools – it’s how you use them.

Intention gives you metrics and measurement.

Non-formal learning can have objectives.

The opportunity is not formalizing informal learning, but rather working with non-formal learning.

You will lose the battle if try to come up with metrics around totally informal learning.

“Technology gives us more options.” (Kevin Kelly)  We used to have two options: formal and informal.  Now we’ve got all this middle ground.

If there’s no design, it’s informal.


Stage 1:  Get Organized (Leadership)

  • What is the problem you’re trying to solve?
  • What are the metrics? – think about them upfront, not at the end.  (Amount of time to move info through a salesforce – maybe the metric is time).
  • Stakeholders? 
  • Learner profile?
  • Approach? Given our problem, the metrics, the stakeholders – how are we gonna do it? 

 Stage 2: Get Oriented

  • What’s the scope?
  • Organizational factors?
  • What are the weaknesses?
  • What are milestones along the way?

[Note: still haven’t selected the technology or tool!]

Stage 3:  Get Smarter

  • Architect the solution (hmm…maybe twitter, maybe a blog…)
  • Develop the design
  • Integrate into larger system
  • Test, learn, iterate (rapid prototyping and quick cycles) – “fast and ok is better than slow and good.”  Today’s world is ready, fire, aim, ready, fire, reaim!

Stage 4:  Get Real (Develop-Implement)

  • Go right to Version 1 – forget the beta.  No one’s committed to a beta.
  • Continue to learn and iterate
  • listen and communicate

5 Key Principles:

  1. Speed.  Rapid.
  2. Action learning – nothing is certain.
  3. Integration – it’s got to fit inside a larger system.
  4. Pragmatism – leverage opportunities.  look inside the org and decide where this will make a difference.
  5. Working from right to left – keep the end in mind – first figure out what problem you’re trying to solve.  Don’t start with Twitter and then work backward.


  • No models
  • No roadmap
  • Layers of complexity (a classroom is actually pretty simple.  But this will have many things you can’t control or plan for).
  • Mistakes are inevitable
  • Surprises are given
  • Strong forces are working against you
  • Time is of the essence

And then…we ran out of time!


“If I annoyed you, I meant to.”  [I think he said that.  He did.] 

Side two of his business card = Creative Abrasionist – hoping to be provocative.  30 years in the learning industry.  People in the biz need to be open – it’s not either/or.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

DevLearn09 - I'm Speaking!

Come November, I'll be heading to San Jose for DevLearn '09.

Looking forward to the schmoozing, the DemoFest, the ID Zone, the Social Media Camp, the learning!, and -- oh yes! -- the speaking.

I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to co-present two sessions this year along with some of my esteemed Kineo colleagues:

Wednesday, November 11 1:30 pm
Moodle: How It's Changing the Face of Corporate e-Learning
with Steve Lowenthal, Kineo's US CEO

Friday, November 13 10:00 am
Yawn-proof your e-Learning Without Busting the Bank
with Stephen Walsh, Kineo partner

Check out full descriptions of our sessions as well as all the other cool things that are happening at the DevLearn website.

Hope to see you there! (Did I tell you that I'm looking forward to the schmoozing part?)

Friday, September 04, 2009

Back to School Reading List

Over on the Kineo website, we frequently post articles and tips on a variety of topics. Usually e-learning related, but you never know.

Last week I put up a Back to School Reading List with an ID/e-learning focus. Be interested to hear what you've got on your reading list right now. What are you hoping to read this fall in order to expand your mind and your professional capabilities?

Also check out Tip 27: Tear Down the Visual Wallpaper. (I did not write this one). Nice piece on graphics for instructional use.

I like this from the article's intro:

Graphic descriptions you may be familiar with:

· ‘Two people shaking hands’

· ‘Business person on the phone in generic office’

· ‘Image of learners, asleep in front of their computers’

Come on -- admit it. You've used those same images, haven't you?