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10 Reasons Why You Should Attend the Allen Interactions User Conference

 

By , senior instructional strategist | @LearnerAdvocate
Angel Green senior instructional strategist

The countdown has begun. The buzz is palpable in our offices. Our first ever user conference is right around the corner. So, here are the ten reasons why I believe you will want to attend:

1. Be Inspired

A bit of TED™, a dash of Ignite®, and a sprinkle of PechaKucha™. Throughout the day, you will hear from a select set of speakers (real Allen Interactions partners, respected business leaders, and of course Michael Allen) who are sure to inspire. During these brief presentations, they will share stories of challenges, successes, and most importantly real results. These speakers will encourage, engage, and motivate you.

The day will also provide inspiration through demonstrations of several award-winning, performance-driven courses (some never before demonstrated!). Seeing what is possible will help ignite your creativity. 

2. Become an Agent of Change

Allen Interactions thought leaders will offer strategies and techniques designed to move your courses beyond content-driven e-learning. Learn how you can use the instructional design model of Context, Challenge, Activity, Feedback (CCAF) to create learning that produces a real change in learner performance. Through discussions with our client partners, hear how they were able to initiate change in the type of learning offered in each of their organizations.

3. Collaborate and Network 

Networking

This is a day of collaboration and networking! You will participate in table team activities and discussions, making connections and gaining input from your peers in the field of adult learning. During the course of the day, you will have an opportunity to mingle with the crowd, meet Allen Interactions employees and create connections that will last long after the day has ended.

4. Set Yourself Free

Is your instructional design process or your development tool holding you back? Are you being asked to create courses faster, cheaper, and with greater appeal to learners? Learn how an iterative process shifts focus from analyzing and revising content for approval to designing and developing performance driven interactions. See how anyone can go from creating content to developing serious learning, without a degree in computer science.

5. Get Answers to Tough Questions

ToughQuestions

Are there concerns that keep you up at night? Perhaps you wonder about how you are, or should be, measuring the effectiveness of your training. Maybe you are curious about what’s on the horizon for the industry? Should you focus on a mobile strategy, gamification, social learning? How should you allocate your personal development and your organization’s resources amid an ever-changing swirl of trends and buzzwords? Well, who better to discuss these questions (and any others you may have) than with the experts and peers that will all be gathered together in this room!

6. LEARN!

How do you move from storyboarding to prototyping? Why is it better to communicate without words? What is a Savvy Start and how can it help ensure a better product? How, and when, do you get learners involved? How can you work better with your SMEs? What are some creative instructional treatments that appeal to the learners and the stakeholders? You’re bound to learn more than you ever dreamed possible for one day! 

7. Build Your Own Action Plan

Great intentions are wonderful, but change only occurs from action. As part of the user conference, you have an opportunity to create an action plan to take home with you. The guide will prompt you to document specific steps you commit to taking, discussions you need to have, and new techniques you will attempt upon returning to reality. 

8. Share Feedback

Feedback

You don’t need to be one of our client partners to share your feedback - we have a social presence, we offer training sessions, books, workshops, webinars, blogs, case studies, demos, white papers and products available to the public. What would you love to see Allen Interactions offer? How can we improve our industry outreach? What can we do to help you? Of course, if you are a client partner, we’d love to hear about your experience as well!

9. Make a Difference

As an industry, we should push ourselves to do better—for our learners, for our organizations, and for ourselves. We should feel compelled to challenge the status quo. Our learning interventions should no longer burden the learners, with little to no measurable benefits to the organization. In this user conference, our goal is ignite a spark in you to commit to making a difference. Together we can move the needle, making a change in the industry, one course at a time.

10. Visit Chicago in September 

ChicagoFall

We’re still in the thick of summer now, but fall is right around the corner. Chicago in September is bound to offer beautiful foliage, crisp air, and a feeling akin to the beginning of a new school year—where everything and anything is possible. 


I can’t express how excited we are about our first ever Allen Interactions’ hosted conference. With each internal planning session we have, the anticipation only grows more intense. We really think you’ll find such value in attending. I hope to see you there.

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3 Ways to Start Implementing the SAM Process in Your Organization

 

by , vice president - training and marketing | @rhillsites

Richard Sites, vice president

Over past couple of years, I have taught a number of workshops on SAM (Successive Approximation Model) and have given even more talks on the subject. In these workshops and talks, I always get the same basic questions, which I guess makes sense since I am talking about the same thing. But, the one question I can guarantee I will be asked is,  “How do I implement SAM in my organization?”

While I am happy to be asked this question, as I firmly believe organizations benefit from the efficiencies and improvement in quality gained in an iterative process, this is a tough question to answer! Truthfully, it is nearly impossible to answer even in a 2-day workshop, let alone a 90-minute lecture.  Since I do encounter this question so frequently, I have learned to focus my answer on a few key factors that increase the likelihood of success.

Angel Green and I often use the phrase “moving the needle” to describe the efforts when implementing SAM in an organization. By “moving the needle”, someone is making incremental changes that produce noticeable results.

StartingLine

Let me share some of these incremental changes with you.

  1. Start at the start.

    There is no better way to build excitement for the power of an iterative design than to kick-off with an active brainstorming and sketching session, which is called the Savvy Start in SAM.

    Sure, we recognize that you might face resistance when asking for the full amount of time required of a Savvy Start (as described in the book), but perhaps you can facilitate a one-hour brainstorming session on a single performance event or objective.  The energy and excitement generated from a robust brainstorming/sketching/prototyping event goes a long way to build credibility within the organization for a new instructional design approach.
     
  2. Select a project that is reasonable in size to start.

    SAM is a powerful process that can handle even the largest learning and development projects. But, when it’s your first attempt at it in your organization, discretion is the better part of valor.

    In line with this approach, you may opt to pick a small part of bigger project to implement SAM principles and activities. Either way, make sure that you give yourself, and SAM, the best chance for early success.

  3. Find places in your process where you can add SAM principles and practices.

    Often the processes we use to design and develop learning events are a combination of ISD practices and organizational requirements. These processes usually look for the opportunity for approval and review, not for how a deliverable is created – giving plenty of ways to incorporate iterative design.

    For example, instead of spending a lot of time analyzing content, why not have a brief brainstorming, sketching, prototyping meeting with a small number of colleagues? Both of these strategies can help you create a design document, but by the process of challenging your design with others, you are more likely to arrive at a higher quality product.

As I mentioned earlier, answering the question of how to implement SAM deserves a lot more than a single blog post. So, if you’d like to learn more strategies for implementing SAM, please join us at the Allen Interactions User Conference in Chicago on September 22.

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[Webinar] 10 Ways to Ruin Your e-Learning: A How-To Guide in Reverse

 

10 Ways to Ruin Your e-Learning

A Complimentary Webinar Presented with ASTD

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 1:00pm - 2:00pm Central
By: Ethan Edwards

Register Now

In many professional areas, it is usually a good strategy to look to common practices in the field as a guide - maybe not for the most cutting-edge ideas, but at least for reliable models to follow. Unfortunately, in e-learning this can often be a recipe for disaster.

Join Ethan Edwards, chief instructional strategist with Allen Interactions, on a journey uncovering the 10 most common design practices that are sure to ruin your e-learning.

About Ethan Edwards

Ethan EdwardsEthan Edwards, of Allen Interactions, Inc., draws on more than 30 years of industry experience as an e-learning instructional designer and developer. He is responsible for the delivery of the internal and external training and communication that reflects Allen Interactions’s unique perspective on designing and developing meaningful and memorable e-learning programs.

Edwards is the primary instructor for ASTD’s E-Learning Instructional Design Certificate program. In addition, he is an internationally recognized speaker on e-learning instructional design. He is a primary blogger on Allen Interactions’s E-Learning Leadership Blog and has published several whitepapers on creating effective e-learning. Ethan holds a master’s degree and has completed significant doctoral work in educational psychology from the University of Illinois—Urbana Champaign.

Getting Executive Buy-In for Your e-Learning Needs

 

by Steve Lee, strategic relationship manager

Steve Lee

Over the past 20 years, Allen Interactions has been deeply committed to designing and developing meaningful, memorable, and motivational learning experiences with our many contributions in books, tradeshows, webinars, and training… not to mention our newly redesigned e-Learning Instructional Design Certificate Program available through ATD (formerly ASTD).  But despite our mark in the industry, we still hear the question:

“I want to create the most effective learning experiences possible, but how do I get my boss to approve the time and resources I need?” 

Since Allen Interactions is in the business of creating award winning, results driven “Serious Learning” we have learned the tips and tricks that have gained the interest and support of executives in all industries. 

We know that getting the approval of stakeholders on board is one of the biggest hurdles to any project! But luckily, we are here to help. Paul Howe, VP of sales at Allen Interactions will joing me in offering a free webinar, on Wednesday, July 16th, to share our best practices and past experiences with our clients.  This webinar will include how to “frame” learning needs with business drivers, discuss measurable results and proven return on investment (ROI), and focus on how to maximize learning and productivity for both the student and the development teams. A the end of the webinar we will offer all attendees a pre-built presentation template that you can share with your boss to get the buy-in you want for your e-learning needs.

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Free Online Courses to Exercise Your Brain this Summer

 

by relationship management assistant

Hannah Von Bank Blog, sales assistant coordinator

Here at the e-Learning Leadership Blog, we often discuss creative ways to train the brains of our learners so they can excel at what they do—but do we ever forget about ourselves? Studies have shown that spending just 15-30 minutes a day learning a new skill (or practicing a challenging one) allows brain cells to make new connections and produces numerous benefits including: improved memory, increased focus, faster thinking, and even prevention of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Make some time in your busy schedule this summer to pamper your brain! Here are a few cool sites to help you get started.

Khan Academy

KhanAcademy

I used to dream about being adequate at math. Not “good”—as a self-diagnosed “creative, right-brained person” I had long ago decided that true mathematical aptitude was a physiological impossibility for me—but I did hope that someday maybe I would know what to do when I saw numbers and letters hanging out together. Well folks, today is that day.

Khan Academy is an innovative non-profit whose mission is “to provide free, world class education for anyone, anywhere.” They have lessons in a wide variety of subject areas for nearly every skill level, from pre-K through college, but where they really excel is math.

The “World of Math” program uses game elements that make practicing algebra both fun and a little addictive. Learners begin by taking a very short quiz to assess their skill level and earn (earn what? each time they master a new skill. The learning environment adapts as you progress and it’s exciting to see your score rise as you level up and unlock new skills.

Code Academy

At Code Academy, learners begin by choosing one of 7 tracks (HTML/CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, Python, Ruby, PHP, and APIs are the available options) and are immediately immersed in one of many fun, easy 20-30 minute projects. Completing projects unlocks new ones and all your creations are stored on your dashboard for you to show off to your friends. I started the HTML/CSS program with no experience at all and within 20 minutes I had created this nifty animation of my name (I can’t show you here, but the dots move away from your mouse if you try to click them—nothing earthshattering, but I’m pretty excited about it.) 

CodyAcademy

Coursera

You’ve likely heard the term “MOOC” bandied about, but if you haven’t, it stands for “Massive Open Online Course.” Basically, a MOOC is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. There are a number of sites that host these types of courses, but Coursera is my personal favorite. They have classes from 80+ Universities worldwide, including many Ivy League schools. So if you’ve always wanted to take a paleontology course from Harvard or a class on Ancient Roman Architecture from Princeton (and I’ve done both), this is the place to go. Classes can be hit or miss depending upon your personal preference for a professor’s teaching style or interest in the subject, but there are many to choose from and likely something out there for everyone. Best of all, learners get to choose how involved they want to be in a class—I usually just listen to lectures while I work but there are also side projects and an optional certificate that can be earned for completing homework, tests, and discussions.

I hope each of your take a few minutes out of your day to challenge your brain. You won’t be disappointed!

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Iterations: Evaluating for Improved e-Learning Performance

 

In this episode of Iterations, Richard Sites and Angel green discuss why evaluation is so essential to e-learning design.

 

Richard Sites, vice president - training and marketing

 

Richard Sites
vice president - training and marketing & co-author of Leaving ADDIE for SAM
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Angel Green - senior instructional strategist

 

Angel Green
senior instructional strategist
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Be an Advocate for Dumping the Information Dump

 

by Ann Iverson, instructional designer

Ann Iverson

Angel Green, senior instructional strategist at Allen Interactions, recently hosted a webinar on Design Thinking for the Instructional Designer that was both informative and inspirational. In it, she stressed the importance of moving beyond a formulaic approach into designing instructional products through creative and empathetic endeavors. An essential success factor for these instructional events is to focus on performance, minimizing content that learners can access easily outside of the learning experience.

For most of my career as an instructional designer, I’ve been an advocate for putting an end to the information dump that many clients believe to be effective. I’ve put myself in the learner’s shoes, dreading the idea of trudging through screens overloaded with information. Over the years, I’ve tried to help decision makers and Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) understand the importance of minimizing content they consider to be “need-to-know.” While their motivation for holding on tight varies, our goal as instructional designers is to try to move the needle toward the design principles that make for great e-learning.

There are a few common questions that raise a red flag for me, highlighting some of the best needle-moving opportunities with stakeholders. When they ask these questions, I realize there’s a chance to advocate for dumping the information dump. Maybe you recognize these questions as opportunities too:

1. Where are the learning objectives?

Starting a course with bulleted learning objectives was once the standard. When learners see those lists, they get an immediate impression  the course is heavy on content, light on interactivity. Try starting the course with objectives that challenge learners right away. For example, for a fire safety course…

Instead of this:

Upon completion of this course, learners should be able to:

  • Understand how grease fires ignite
  • Recognize a grease fire
  • Identify the steps for putting out a grease fire
  • Know the consequences of using a variety of materials for putting out a grease fire

Try this:

Quick! There’s a grease fire in your kitchen! Grab the right items to put the fire out now.

Defining a “mission objective” for learners upfront gives them an engaging and compelling reason to find the information they need to make the best decisions.

2. Where are the page numbers?

Work with stakeholders to clarify the difference between e-learning and e-reading. Page numbers are for text books, not virtual learning activities. Think about it, you never see page numbers in online games. The path is often nonlinear, so it can’t be measured in screens. The page number is a classic example of setting up learners to believe they’re making progress by clicking through screens of content. But when you immerse learners in a rich, engaging environment, page numbers become irrelevant. Learners are too focused on and engaged in the activity to care about what page they’re on.

 InformationDump

3. Where are all the documents we sent?

When designing performance-based courses, some of the same content as what is included in an information dump course is there, it’s just stored in a different place, like in a toolkit or coaching resource so learners can access it as needed. Rather than force learners to read the information, the design pulls them toward the content. 

ged. For example, two employees are putting out grease fires. Which one is in compliance?

Learners also view content in feedback after making decisions. For example, if I choose water to put out the grease fire, in addition to seeing the graphic of the fire spread, I might see feedback like this:

Oh no! Pouring water on the fire can cause the oil to splash and spread the fire. The vaporizing water can also carry grease particles in it, spreading the fire. Quick! Make another choice!

Contextual feedback makes a lasting impression. Learners want to know if they’re right or wrong, and if they’re wrong, they’re curious to find out why, maximizing their attention toward the feedback.

4. Where are the assessments?

Traditional e-learning assessments ask learners to read some content and then choose one correct answer from three or four options to show knowledge mastery. Typical types of assessment questions are multiple choice, true/false, matching or fill-in-the blank items. In performance-based design, the assessments are built into the action. Learners are given a challenge that requires them to apply new skills to solve a problem. For example, when learners put out a grease fire correctly, they view feedback that reinforces their actions and lets them know they made the right decisions. They may get credit, points or even certification for demonstrating the steps correctly. Completing the challenge correctly then makes a more formal assessment unnecessary.

Help your stakeholders and SMEs avoid the pitfalls of the information dump. Guide them to create learning experiences that engage learners’ innate curiosity so that they seek out the content they need to be successful. If you do, you’ll be helping to move the needle toward great e-learning.

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Go Beyond Sizzle & Fizzle: Create Learning that Delights

 

by Ethan Edwards, chief instructional strategist | @ethanaedwards

Ethan Edwards

We’re just a few days away from the Independence Day holiday here in the United States. For most, this is a weekend full of celebration, with parades, barbeques, ice-cold watermelon, family outings, and fireworks. While I enjoy all these things to a degree, I’m sort of neutral about fireworks—I don’t mean the great big civic fireworks shows, but the ones you’re supposed to enjoy in your own yard.

I know that this mild aversion is directly related to my own experiences. I grew up in a home that was decidedly anti-fireworks. For one thing, fireworks were illegal in Illinois, and we were taught to disapprove (correctly, I believe) of our schoolmates who would cross over into Missouri to bring home fireworks to set off in flagrant disregard for law and order. But my brothers and I would beg for fireworks anyway. I can’t even say what I hoped to gain if we had access to fireworks, but the appeal of what everyone else is doing was hard to resist. 

My dad was a chemist. One year he thought up a grand compromise. He would take us to his chemistry laboratory and, in place of setting off fireworks, he would oversea our mixing of gunpowder. We were a decidedly pacifist family and so my prior experience with gunpowder of any sort was non-existent, but Dad assured us that gunpowder was a primary ingredient in most fireworks, so it would essentially be the same thing.

Well, we mixed up a very small amount of sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate, took the mixture home, and in the evening of July 4 wrapped up little packets of the black powder in tissue paper, took them out to the driveway, placed each on a brick, applied a match, and (from my 8-year old perspective) waited for the magic. There was none. We just saw a very bright flame burn for a few seconds accompanied by the gentlest sizzling sound. I think my Dad thought we had done something quite wonderful; to me, it was a huge disappointment.

Sizzle & Fizzle

Fast forward 20 years or so: Celebrating July 4th away from home, I was with some friends (clearly of a different upbringing) who had purchased a mixed selection of incendiary devices with the most exciting of names: Flaming Parrots, Pyro Machine Gun, Super Sonic Warheads, and even the misleadingly gentle-sounding Willows Among the Palms. So I experienced a full dose of what I had craved for so long, and found myself equally disappointed. There was a great deal of sparkle and sizzle, but it really added up to nothing. The cumulative effect of these experiences is that I don’t really look forward to fireworks displays, but rather view them as an annoyance to be endured as part of the overall July 4th experience. 

Now you needn’t care about my personal grievances with fireworks, but I’m sharing this story to perhaps shed a new perspective on why much e-learning fails to connect with the learner. I think we’re sort of trapped in one of two camps: 

In the first, many organizations seem to approach e-learning like my father approached fireworks. They recognize that others are jumping in to an exotic technology and want to join in. But because they are in the serious business of training, they don’t want to vary too far from what is essential. So the training is no-frills, content-laden, testing-focused, no-nonsense. The gunpowder had all the essential ingredients of fireworks, so why shouldn’t that be good enough? Similarly, page-turning presentational e-learning has content and interaction--and maybe even media in the form of narration and video—so that should suffice. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work because it fails to create a satisfactory user experience.

The other approach to e-learning is parallel to the people shooting off the Flaming Parrots in their back yard. Lured by the appeal of the grand million dollar civic displays, individuals try to recreate the same thrill without the means or skills to do so. I see a parallel with how in recent times everyone wants to jump on the gamification wagon to improve e-learning, motivated by the fact that young people seem to find online gaming irresistible. Many people forget that the most successful games are accomplished through million dollar investments and thousands of working hours. It’s a little foolish to expect similar results with the limited resources that are typically available for e-learning development. But like the backyard fireworks, even after trying to insert mind-blowing media or gaming aspects into the e-learning, the user is ultimately disappointed anyway. It may be a startling experience for the user but it’s unclear what the desired outcome was. 

I like to think that the correct choice lies somewhere in between. That the user’s experience should always be at the center of designing e-learning. Content alone is ill-suited for delivery via computer; the basic elements need to be woven into an experience that the learner controls and values. On the other hand, designs need to stay focused in pursuit of a specific purpose. Media misapplied is just as big a waste as a void. But appropriate pizazz, integrated seamlessly and intelligently with a specific performance outcome in mind, can be the perfect learning experience for the learner. 

Last year my neighbors invited me over for a little July 4th home grown pageant their kids put together. There were some actions to depict the Revolutionary War and other “great moments” in history, culminating in a display of a small Statue of Liberty, around which were arranged some inexpensive sparklers. It was perfect…not the dour seriousness of gunpowder burning on a brick nor the pointless abandon of Flaming Parrots or Willows Among the Palms waving in the air. I wish the e-learning that companies invest in could achieve a similarly delightful balance in creating their user experiences.

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Six Principles for Assuring Quality in e-Learning

 

By , quality assurance specialist

Michelle KenoyerKenoyer

To the right is an approximately 70-year-old photo of my grandmother when she was in her early twenties. During World War II, she served in the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps as a quality-assurance inspector. Based on her stories and recollections, her role required that she examine and recommend improvements for the safety and working conditions of U.S. Army facilities stateside. From time to time, she used a special tool to measure and test the safety and efficacy of hand grenades. It was important for inspectors like her to ensure that not only were the grenades safe for Army soldiers to transport, but also that they deployed properly when the pin was pulled.

I suppose this attention to quality runs in the family. While I cannot possibly compare the relative ease and comfort of working as a quality assurance (QA) specialist in the e-learning and training field to my grandmother’s more dangerous responsibilities during wartime, I do believe the role of QA in developing training materials, including e-learning, is critical.

e-Learning professionals like me likely do not put ourselves in dangerous situations like my grandmother and her fellow Corps inspectors did during World War II, but the quality and soundness of the e-learning courseware we produce can be life-saving. At Allen Interactions, our teams have delivered custom e-learning for a client whose goal is to eliminate deaths and injuries at railroad crossings. We’ve also developed sophisticated simulation-based courseware to prepare law-enforcement professionals to identify and respond to terrorism and gang violence in their cities. Truly, the responsibility of creating accurate, engaging, and interactive training materials for audiences whose vocations center on life-or-death situations underscores our company’s fundamental philosophy of developing e-learning that is meaningful, memorable, and motivational.

Learnability

e-Learning QA is somewhat different from―or rather an extension of—traditional Web-based QA. Quality assurance for e-learning involves the usual hunt for defects in functionality, layout, media, content, usability, accessibility/508 compliance issues, and platform, but also a unique learnability component. Learnability in an e-learning context means something different. Effective e-learning QA specialists will also evaluate courseware from the intended learning audience’s perspective. As Dr. Michael Allen observes in his book, Successful e-Learning Interface, do the activities provide an optimal interface that maximizes the impact of the learning experience? Specifically, he points out (and I’m paraphrasing), do the e-learning activities have enough challenge to instill a sense of confidence and accomplishment without being “too easy”? Are the activities themselves engaging and appealing? Is feedback given appropriate for both the learning context and the actions the learner chooses during the activities? Moreover, does any component of the e-learning present any obstacles that prevent learners from achieving their performance goals?

Learner Acceptance Testing (LAT)

Learner Acceptance Testing (LAT) taking place on a sample of actual learners from the target audience can uncover many of these learnability issues, as well as other quality assurance issues that may have been (unintentionally!) overlooked during the rigorous iterations of in-house QA. However, QA specialists need to be learner advocates on the frontlines to proactively lessen these issues. This allows the learners participating in the LAT sessions to get the most out of the experience, with fewer distractions and obstacles in their way. In fact, QA analysts who specialize in e-learning must be advocates for all learners, LAT and beyond, who engage in your organization’s e-learning activities and (hopefully!) reap the benefits from them.

When implementing and conducting effective e-learning QA as a learner advocate, keep these six basic principles in mind:

  1. Implement QA as a continuous part of the development process. Be active and attentive in QA at all phases of a project. More often than desired, QA for any Web-based product falls at the tail end of a product’s development. Worse yet, it sometimes doesn’t take place at all when projects run over schedule or budget, or if QA has not been implemented as part of the overall development plan from the outset.

    Michael Allen stresses that QA occur within each iteration of a project’s development. In Leaving ADDIE for SAM, he writes, “quality is best attained by giving it continuous attention rather than only near the end of product production.”

    In a client-facing environment, late-breaking customer input requiring revision (e.g. legal, Learner Acceptance Testing) can take place as late as Gold (Gold is final learning product delivery in the SAM process). That being said, it is still critical to...
     
  2. Start early. Work within a formal Quality Control process to ensure that any fundamental or wide-reaching structural or learnability problems are resolved during the early iterations of a project (e.g., functional prototypes, design proof, even the Alpha release – all deliverables in SAM) rather than in the eleventh hour.

    When the project is in its early stage, do as thorough an investigation of the e-learning courseware as possible, so that development attention can be devoted more toward fine-tuning and optimization during later releases (Beta and Gold).
     
  3. Have a game plan! Plans for e-learning QA can be as complex as a series of traditional test plans, scripts, and cases; or they can be as simple as checklists made in a spreadsheet or word-processing program. Whichever method fits into your organization and development environment, it is important to have a formal QA process to not only look for defects, but to abide by your organization’s style and design standards in all areas of your e-learning projects.

    More experienced QA personnel may know their process like the backs of their hands (and thus be more likely to take it for granted), whereas QAs who are newer to a team’s process will need more structure and guidance. Both levels of experience will benefit from a formalized QA game plan.

    If your organization is developing e-learning for a third-party client, you may also need to consider your client’s own standards and style guides as an added layer to your organization’s internal specifications.
     
  4. Have a standard method of documenting defects. Whether you use a third-party or an in-house defect-tracking system, make sure the development and QA teams are on the same page regarding how defects are reported―and in which form of documentation. This helps to eliminate duplication of defect reports, and also streamlines the back-and-forth communication among QAs, instructional designers, developers, and other team members during development iterations.
     
  5. Trust but verify. No matter which form of QA reporting you use, be sure to verify all reported fixes that take place from initial and subsequent QA iterations in the latest build. As with any software or Web development project, fixes to initially-reported defects might introduce new defects or even override other fixes in related areas of a project.
     
  6. Use version control! Just wanted to throw this in there. But seriously, before reviewing each iteration of a project, be sure you’re looking at the latest and greatest material. Especially during verification passes, having a systematic version control process will prevent unnecessarily re-opening comments/tickets/bugs/issues/etc.

This checklist of QA basics is not exhaustive; additional criteria and specifications can apply according to project, client, and learner needs. Also, your company may have its own requirements that vary somewhat from the points I’ve briefly outlined here. Hopefully, these quality criteria will help you as a baseline if your company does not already have a formal QA process in place.

In addition, the importance of QA as a continuous part of the e-learning development process cannot be stressed enough. Be sure to safeguard the quality, effectiveness, and learning efficacy of the courseware with a well-planned, soundly-executed QA process from your project’s kickoff till deployment.

In the end, your learners will appreciate a clean, obstacle-free course void of distractions from doing what you most intend them to do: learn. Assuring quality through your project’s duration can save your learners from problem-ridden e-learning—and may even help them to save lives, too.

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Gamification, Motivation & Design Thinking: Upcoming e-Learning Webinars

 

The end of June and beginning of July is a busy time here at Allen Interactions. We’ve been working on a lot of new content and are excited to share it with you. First up, we’ve got a webinar in collaboration with SABA this afternoon. If you missed Angel Green’s Premium Training Webinar back in February regarding Allen Interactions’ Taxonomy Alignment for Gaming (TAG) then be sure to check out today’s webinar—The Gamification of e-Learning.

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On Thursday, Angel will continue to share her Instructional Design knowledge with a new Premium Training Webinar, Design Thinking for the Instructional Designer. This two-hour webinar will discuss the power of design thinking, human centered design and the creative process, walking you through an instructional designer guide engineered to tap into your (and your project team’s) creative power. It’s not too late to snag a free seat in our give-away. 

Angel Green hasn’t been the only one active around here. Ethan Edwards will also be sharing his instructional design expertise in the weeks to come. Beginning with a Training Magazine hosted event, Ethan will present Designing e-Learning for Maximum Motivation on July 1.  In this webinar, Ethan will explore the importance of motivation in the design framework for e-learning and present guidelines for creating maximally motivating e-learning.

And finally, in an ASTD collaboration—10 Ways to Ruin Your e-Learning: A How-To Guide in Reverse, join Ethan on a journey to uncover the 10 most common design practices that are plaguing e-learning today. 

Like we said, it will be a busy next couple of weeks! We hope that you will join us for some, if not all of these webinars!

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