Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Does Your eLearning Smell Bad?

Sometimes a phrase sticks in my skull.  And not always in a good way.

Last week I read an article in CLO Magazine about blended learning: ”What’s Old is New Again: CLOs aren’t as fond of blended learning as we think” by Giuseppe Auricchio, that had a ring dinger of a quote that I’ll get to in a second.
So why the resistance to blended learning at the senior level? Well, mostly because CLOs don’t seem to trust all of the ingredients going into those blends. Adoption is hindered, the article says, due to “preconceptions about online learning. One interviewee said, ‘E-learning still carries quite a bad smell.’ 

Monday, April 06, 2015

Book Review: Visual Design Solutions by Connie Malamed

I got started in the business because I can write. I like to think that I have some visual design acumen, but it’s pretty haphazard. The last time I studied the color wheel was probably in eighth grade.

And yet eLearning is a really visual medium. We’re communicating with people through the tools of the screen: text, audio, video, images. Layout and aesthetics matter. As designers of learning experiences (and no matter your role in that processbe it a writer of instructional material that you handoff to a graphics team, or a one-stop-instructional design shop where you do it all) one essential skill that you should be honing is visual design.

Connie Malamed has written a book just for us: Visual DesignSolutions: Principles and Creative Inspiration for Learning Professionals. In this solid guide, she lays out key visual design theory, making it accessible and applicable to the work we do every day.

“If you are like most learning designers, you have little to no background in visual design. Yet you wear many hats and are often responsible for the visual communication aspect of your materials—whether you create them yourself or collaborate with others.” (From the preface, Visual Design Solutions)

Connie, also known as “The eLearning Coach”, is one of the coolest eLearning people I know. I consider her a friend and I’ve had the good fortune to eat many a meal with her—chewing our food while also chewing the proverbial eLearning cud.  I respect her mind. She is thoughtful, thorough, and really knows her stuff. So consider this review biased.

The book is organized in four main sections:
Part I: The Big Ideas in which Connie explains the difference between art and design and exhorts you to “Think like a designer; you are one”.

Part 2: Building Blocks of Design, in which Connie gets into the nuts and bolts of things like white space and layouts, explains the difference between typeface and fonts, and makes it clear how a .png is different from a .jpg (I never knew it had to do with transparency!)

Part 3: Power Principles, in which Connie decodes the color wheel, talks about visual hierarchies, and introduces ways to organize your layouts for greater impact.

Part 4: Practicing Design, in which Connie pulls it all together to show how to apply these core skills to create emotional tension, enhance meaning, and tell stories. 

She presents design concepts and theories that—to a seasoned visual designer—are real foundational stuff, e.g., complementary colors or hierarchies. But she does it without condescending. If your last art class was in middle school like me, then you’ll appreciate Connie’s wonderful re-introduction to the color wheel and the theory behind what’s pleasing to the eye and why.

Connie really does want to help you make better learning design. She says this stuff isn’t hard; you can get better with practice.  And I believe her. It certainly helps that she’s stuffed this book chock full of examples and non-examples so you can see the difference between a well designed page and a hot sticky mess of one.

I know that Connie is not someone to delve lightly into the task of writing a book. She takes her work seriously and aims for perfection. This means that you, the reader, will benefit from all the hours of research that went into this work.

As an advance reader, I got a PDF version of the book. Although I don’t mind reading books on a computer, there are some books that just call for a physical reference. I can’t wait to get a hard copy. This is a book that I’ll be flipping through with my fingers to just the right page when I need a reminder about the difference between a hairline vs. a wedge serif, or want to check out that dynamic page layout example that really moved my eye along in a pleasing way.

So who’s this book good for?
  • An accidental instructional designer who’s fallen into this eLearning stuff seemingly by…accident. You’re responsible for the entire project soup to nuts and need to gather the content and build the elearning courses all by yourself. You’re now trying to get yourself up and running as quickly as you can. And while you’re great at teaching people in your organization how to follow a tricky process, you’ve never had to create graphics before. 
  • A graphic artist who knows your stuff and wants to give an easy-to-understand yet comprehensive graphics primer to the people you work with so you’re all speaking the same language.
  • A graphic artist working in the learning field for the first time. You want to know how things like working memory and cognitive load should factor into the visual designs you create.
  • An instructional designer or eLearning content writer who works with graphic artists. You want to better understand the principles of good visual design so you can write better scripts and define more meaningful graphics for your team to create.
  • An eLearning project team member who reviews courses and talks with clients about eLearning. You want to hone your eye so you can guide your project to a higher quality and explain to your clients why adding a flashing orange button in the bottom left corner just isn’t good design. 

I’m sure I’ve missed a few others who could benefit from the book. See for yourself!

Visual Design Solutions: Principles and Creative Inspiration for Learning Professionals by Connie Malamed. Find it on Amazon and in the ATD book store (discounted for members).

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Accidental Designer: Book Group Discussion Guide

Looking to develop your team's ID skills? Want to have a good starting point for a team meeting discussion? At the request of a client who was starting a discussion group for her team on The Accidental Instructional Designer, I created a Book Group Discussion Guide. You can download the guide for free from the ATD Press page:
The Accidental Instructional Designer covers nearly every aspect of the e-learning design process. It’s perfect for the learning professional or instructional designer who is just getting started—or the practitioner looking for new ideas. Delve into instructional design, creating scenarios, building interactivity, designing visuals, and working with SMEs. Read a sample chapter
Get the conversation flowing with The Accidental Instructional Designer Book Group Discussion Guide. Download the free guide from the book page. 
If you start a book group in your organization, let me know how it goes!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Rubber Ducks and Instructional Design

If you haven't already figured it out, there's this duck meme thing going on in my life.

Real pet ducks.

Book covers with ducks on them.

At Christmas this past year, a friend sent me a box of rubber ducks. All colors. 50 of them.

In my twenties I even had a hair cut that my friends joked looked a little bit like a duck's bottom.

Like any good meme, these ducks have a life of their own, and I no longer have any control over them.

My book, The Accidental Instructional Designer, features a bunch of black rubber ducks with one shiny yellow one standing out from the crowd. The yellow duck, instead of the black sheep.

One of my clients recently told me that she had bought copies of my book for her entire design team. She's running a reading group with them, focusing on my book! Along with my book, she gave each of her team members a rubber duck to put on their desks.

She says she keeps a rubber duck on her desk to remind her that although she was an accidental instructional designer, she knows her stuff and practices with passion and intention. She wanted to share that message with her team.

I love that the duck meme has spread.

I have a few extra rubber ducks at my house these days. What color would you like?

Pick up your copy of the Accidental Instructional Designer: Learning Design for the Digital Age on Amazon or through ATD Press.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Kineo Blended Learning Webinar Series

Join me and Chip Cleary, Kineo's VP of Solutions & Consulting, as we  introduce a new webinar series focused on blended learning in different solution areas. 
30 minute sessions, we'll keep it tight and focused, with real-world examples to get you inspired.
The series launches Thursday, April 2 with Make Blended Learning Work for Leaders. Learn more and register today!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Responsive Design for eLearning [Article in @learningsolmag]

"It’s a fact: we live in a multi-device world. I’m currently sitting at a desk with my laptop open, my phone next to me, and a tablet within reach on the counter. What about you? How many devices do you have going at this very moment? Chances are it’s more than one..."

This is our new reality. So how do we design eLearning that fits into this new world order? Read the full article Responsive Learning Is a Must-have, Not Just Nice-to-have, featured this week on the eLearning Guild's Learning Solutions Magazine.

Interested in more points of view on Responsive Learning? Check out this article by James Corey-Wright, Kineo UK's Head of Learning Design, "Responsive Digital Learning - All for One, One for All".

And then go visit the Adapt Community site, for information and demos of the open-source Adapt Framework.

How are you going to respond to a responsive world?

Monday, February 09, 2015

Session Notes: Breaking Down Silos @JD_Dillon #TrainingMag

These are my live blogged notes from the Training 2015 Conference and Expohappening this week in Atlanta. Forgive any typos or incoherencies.

JD works in the higher-ed space, but is a corporate training guy. He supports the guys who work for Kaplan. JD was at Disney for awhile, AMC entertainment, and 5 years at Kaplan.

JD's slides for this session if you want to follow along...

In 45 minutes, he's going to tell us a five year story.

How Kaplan applied social and how that has changed the way work gets done.

From topical discussion to enhanced collaboration to structured sharing to community engagement.

So JD started at Kaplan...and then had to build e-learning. He's starting to look for the content and can't find a darn thing on the SharePoint site -- just loaded with docs and decks and stuff. That no one can find.

So he said, wouldn't it be amazing if we had Wikipedia for Kaplan? And wouldn't it be amazing if the guy in Phoenix could help the guy in Orlando, and the training department never had to be involved? People helping people across landscapes and time.

And so he started to say "I'm going to be a learning professional" and he started tweeting and going to conferences...

How am I going to make these people share, so that Phoenix/Orlando thing will happen? He was thinking, if you build it they will come. But they didn't.

He thought social was about the technology. Doesn't everyone just want to do this?

But they didn't...

So he started looking around and scrapped the need to start with a strategy. What's the landscape? How is the work being done at Kaplan? How do you know how to do things and who do you go talk to when you have a problem?

Instead of creating a grand strategy, how can I help you do what you're doing?

Sharing isn't new - people were already sharing, but in a way that wasn't advantageous. It was happening in email. And it was happening at home -- people were using platforms at home that were working for them, but once they got to work, they weren't there...

This whole social thing has nothing to do with technology. It's about mentality.

Someone may be constantly sharing things on LinkedIn, but at the workplace, they're not doing that behavior. How do we spread that value so they can do that behavior in the workplace?

Biggest barrier - information ownership. Ultimately, info is power. "If I tell you how I do this, I won't be sales person #1 anymore..."

In silo-based organizations, my department OWNS that.

Location is big. How often do people have to go to your LMS to do their job? Never. Don't ask people to add something to their life? How do we integrate this with the meaningful work people are doing.

No one gets hired to learn; everyone gets hired to DO A JOB.

So where do you start?

Topical Sharing

Let's find out what people are talking about and where. What's the information people need every day to do their work? So JD asked, how can I help them check their lists more effectively? Don't worry about this grander thing about sharing, but instead getting into the workflow.

With no toys and no budget. How do I enable sharing at scale without a technology platform? Cuz we didn't have the toys...

How can we do this and slip in under the IT radar?

What flexible technology is out there, cheap, and could serve a group of people. So he got a Wiki (Confluence). He asked a group what they needed -- he spent $500 and he loaded all of their SOPs...

Social = ability for people to engage and share. Confluence has a commenting box, which made it social.

But the lawyers were concerned about the comments. "The content was approved, but what if people say...?" The answer is, they're already talking and now we can see what they're talking about. And he's never had to escalate anything.

When people's names are tied to it there is accountability. They behave well. If someone has the wrong answer, the people come in with the right answer.

Installed Community Management as a function. They check that people are being nice and are around. So this helped get that buy-in.

Enhanced Collaboration

Confluence is now at 72,000 pages three years later.

So now they started using Google Docs. Effectively killing the email attachment.

Introduced HipChat. Enables topical chat rooms. His team no longer emails each other. They have rooms for projects in HipChat.

Within Confluence, started Project Blogs. So you can document decisions made and the whys behind those decisions.

Structured Sharing

So how can you enable the conversations that are starting to happen and spread it? Teams were very location focused -- Orlando people got help from Orlando people; phoenix from phoenix.

As part of onboarding/new hire groups, he added a Confluence comment thread. He gave those 15 new hires a page. Anyone else could come in and say hello. Here people were talking about whatever. Kind of like a news feed. And the amazing thing, the new people who didn't have silo mentality kept coming back.

Started to leverage this sharing concept into formal trainings. Went after Leadership Training first. They were more accepting of the concept.

Trainers didn't like this, but now more than half of this type of training is now taught virtually.

Then took it to the next level. Started inviting people in to video booth based on what's the big thing in the org right now. Asked them each a question. Instead of making training on it, we got the people who were doing it well to share what they were doing. "How do you do your job?" -- not what they were doing.

People had a hard time sharing this in written form.  Writing takes awhile and people get into perfection mode. When people try to write, it gets too formal.

So we went YouTube on them. People shared on camera. Specific and tactical. 90 seconds.

Community Engagement

Learning and development is in a good place because of that shared services mentality. So JD can start a question thread. But how do we get out of the way now?

Started with forums that were very focused. Now they have more open forum -- "The Writer's Forum". People come in and have meaningful exchanges about better.

So more discussion forums where people take control.

People started to contribute.

Then they started Google Plus. It sat there for three years. Needed to tie the social bit to the work. And now it's really open.

Used five different platforms. There's no one size fits all. As long as you think about the behaviors and how sharing can solve the problems of your organization, then you find tools that will solve those problems.

Let people pick how they share...

This constantly evolves. We need to be nimble.

Can you measure social engagement? Can you connect back to business outcomes?

JD's favorite quote: "Before, only the veterans knew everything. Now, everyone has access to the same information. Everyone has a voice."

For training guys -- how do we shift from creator to connector. Connecting people to ideas and info and each other.

Look for small wins and celebrate them. To help shift the culture.

Dig in. This has taken five years to get to this point.

Know your stuff. Know what Twitter is and Pinterest. Even if you're not a social person and don't want to share, do you see how others could use this?