e-Learning Leadership Blog

Ethan Edwards Answers Your e-Learning Design Questions

Posted by Allen Interactions on Fri, Jan 23, 2015

At Allen Interactions, we strive to be a resource for instructional designers looking to make better, more effective e-learning designs. These questions were submitted by attendees of Ethan Edwards' recent webinar "5 Secret Tips to Drive Impactful e-Learning Designs". If you missed the webinar and would like to view the recording, check out the on-demand webinar here

How can I get more training in learning design?

There are many different sources of training, but I’m not sure that any are sufficient on their own. A gr

eat place to start is to take the professional workshops presented by ATD on designing learning and e-learning instructional design. There are also a number of certificate and degree programs offered by brick and mortar universities as well as online institutions. And we offer a premium training webinar and accompanying guide on design thinking. Even if you don’t want to pursue a degree, taking a few classes can be a good way to gain exposure to basic information about designing e-learning. But probably, the most important thing is to get involved with other professionals engaged in creating online learning and learn through interaction with them. Local ATD chapters, e-Learning Guild events and forums, and Training Magazine are all excellent resources for making connections and being exposed to the best ideas.

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Tags: e-Learning Design, Webinar, Ethan Edwards

4 Tips to Maximize Your e-Learning Graphic Designers' Time

Posted by Hannah von Bank on Tue, Jan 20, 2015

by Hannah von Bank, instructional writer

Everyone wants their course to be visually appealing, but there is rarely a consensus among the project team and stakeholders as to what that actually means. Going through the process of working, reworking, and scrapping designs is time-consuming for media artists and expensive for stakeholders—so what can we do about it?

To find out, I sat down with three fabulously talented media contract artists, who work with all kinds of clients. Here are their ideas to reduce stress on your graphic designers, and save your team time and money:

1. Show, Don’t Tell

I want to create a conversation interaction that trains detectives to interrogate jewel thieves and I want it to be in the “film noir” art style. What do you imagine that course looks like? Do you think the image in your head is the same as the one in mine?

I asked each media artist to create this scene for me without looking at or discussing other’s designs. Here’s what they came up with:

Pretty cool, right? And all are entirely unique.

If you have a specific vision for the look and feel of your course (and you probably do), do the media artists a favor and provide them with a reference. Media artists love it when stakeholders send them color schemes, sketches, video clips, and images that reflect the style they’re going for. Bringing a visual representation of your ideas to a kick-off meeting also allows stakeholders to compare their visions, and prevents confusion and re-works later down the line.

“If a client says, ‘Make that look more modern,’ I don’t know if my idea of modern is the same as theirs. Show me a couple examples and I have a much better picture.” Says one artist.

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Tags: e-Learning Design, Graphic Design, Hannah Von Bank

The Ultimate ATD TechKnowledge Resources Recap

Posted by Allen Interactions on Fri, Jan 16, 2015

This week, hundreds of learning professionals gathered at ATD TechKnowledge in Las Vegas to hear from thought leaders, learn from industry professionals and connect with peers. With the power of social media on our side, we can now easily access the latest tweets, blogs and resources! So here is an aggregated resource list from ATD TK!

We'll keep adding to this list as we find more resources, so if we missed any, just comment below!

Presentation Slides

Power of Visuals - John Meyer, CEO/Co-Founder, Lemonly

If You Build it, Will They Come? — How to Increase Learning Adoption by B.J. Shone, Senior Manager, Learning Technology, AutoDesk

Build Your e-Learning Portfolio: It's Easier Than You Think! by Mike Taylor, Learning Technology at Mindset Digital

Writing Better e-Learning Scripts by Cammy Bean, Vice President of Learning Design, Kineo

Practical Usage of Social Media for Formal Learning Resources by Dan Steer, Freelance Learner Consultant

Practical Usage of Social Media for Formal Learning Resources (Part 2) by Dan Steer, Freelance Learner Consultant

Exploring the Learning and Performance Ecosystem - Resources Share at ATDTK by David Kelly, program Director, The eLearning Guild

LMS Success: Selecting Your Ideal Learning Management System by Katrina Baker, Trainer, Resources of Fun Learning

Fearless Instructional Design: Learning from the Impagination of Jim Henson by Michelle Lentz, Training & Instructional Design, Social Media Strategy& Marketing at Oracle

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Tags: ATD, Tradeshow, Ethan Edwards

Michael Allen Interview–Crystal Balling with Learnnovators

Posted by Michael Allen on Mon, Jan 12, 2015

About this interview series:

Crystal Balling with Learnnovators’ is a thought-provoking interview series that attempts to gaze into the future of e-learning. It comprises stimulating discussions with industry experts and product evangelists on emerging trends in the learning landscape.

The Interview:

1. Learnnovators: For decades, you have been concentrating on defining unique methods of instructional design and development that provide meaningful and memorable learning experiences through “true” cognitive interactivity. Where do you think instructional designers stand with respect to their skills in designing learning experiences for today’s workforce? What would be your advice for them to upskill themselves for designing effective learning solutions for today’s situations?

Michael Allen: Many people responsible for instructional design today just aren’t ready to take on this complex task. This is the primary reason we see so much “tell-and-test” or “text-and-next.” It’s often not their fault; they’ve just been given the assignment by someone who doesn’t appreciate the fact that instructional design is a professional undertaking requiring a good deal of knowledge, skill, and talent.

While I’m fighting everyway I can to establish greater understanding and respect for this important profession, I’m also trying to help define methods and guidelines that simplify the process for everyone. As I’ve worked to define foundational principles and processes, I feel I’ve clarified concepts we can all use to speed up our work and help our clients participate. For example, it’s really helped to note that effective interactive instructional events are constructed of context, challenge, activity, and feedback (CCAF). There are other important constructs as well, of course, but CCAF is a pretty surefire path to successful instruction. By carefully constructing each of these components and making sure that they are tightly tied to each other, it’s hard to go wrong.

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Tags: Successive Approximation Model (SAM), Leaving ADDIE for SAM, ZebraZapps, Michael Allen, ADDIE

Have a Happy New Year: Setting Resolutions to Ensure Success with SAM

Posted by Richard Sites on Thu, Jan 08, 2015

Richard Sites | vice president – training & marketing | @rhillsites

Happy New Year! Welcome to the time of year where you are either starting your New Year resolutions, procrastinating starting your resolutions, or exclaiming your dislike for the nonsense which is making New Year’s resolutions. I’ll let you decide to which group you belong.

During the holiday season it’s almost impossible not to reflect back on the past year and consider what you might have done differently. No matter how hard I try to avoid it, there’s always that moment on December 30th or 31st where it hits me. “Man, I really wished I would have done more or tried harder!” There’s just something about turning the page on the calendar which makes that moment seem necessary and unavoidable. But it’s too late to change what has happened. We can only hope and plan to do better.

But if we are honest with ourselves, doesn’t it always seem like the same resolutions (or at least similar ones) come around every year? Lose weight, save money, workout more…blah, blah, blah.

A simple web search will find plenty of reasons why we fail at our resolutions. The top reasons are:

  1. We go big – making goals that are never attainable.
  2. We expect magic to occur – setting timelines which are not realistic.
  3. We have too many resolutions – choosing everything we can think of to change.
  4. We don’t change our environment – the temptations which hinder our goals are still present.

On nearly every occasion I give a talk or teach a workshop about SAM, I am told about the challenges, limitations, and failures of trying to implement SAM. This is almost immediately followed with a question of “How can I make a Savvy Start happen?” or “Why didn’t this go any faster than our current process?” or “When should I present the Design Proof?” My responses are rarely about the process or components of SAM, but rather about the same things which make our resolutions fail.

Any attempt to change a process which is currently in use in an organization takes more than just having a new process to start. It takes planning, setting expectations, focusing on small successes and integrating into the organization.

From my experience, people are often more excited about using SAM to produce engaging and performance changing learning experiences than they are at ensuring the successful implementation of a new process. Now this is not a bad thing at all! Exuberance, energy, and excitement go a long way towards making any endeavor a success. But just as with New Year’s resolutions, it takes a lot more to achieve the goal.

So here is my list of 2015 SAM Resolutions to help you make this year and your instructional design projects a success! (Do these one at a time, in any order. Don’t try to do them all at once!)

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Tags: Successive Approximation Model (SAM), Savvy Start, Project Success, Richard Sites, Leaving ADDIE for SAM

Be an Inventor: The Importance of Prototyping for e-Learning Design

Posted by Ethan Edwards on Tue, Jan 06, 2015

by Ethan Edwards, chief instructional strategist | @ethanaedwards

In December I was scheduled to teach two ATD e-Learning Instructional Design Certificate Programs back-to-back in New York City, leaving me with a weekend to entertain myself. On Sunday afternoon I was lucky enough to take the train out to West Orange, New Jersey to pay a visit to Thomas Edison National Historical Park. The park preserves the laboratory that for forty years was the central workshop for the development of many of Edison’s most significant inventions, like the motion picture camera, improved phonographs, storage batteries, etc.

I can’t say I had anything more than superficial knowledge of Edison’s work prior to my visit, but the biggest surprise was to discover how much value Edison placed on prototyping. The biggest portion of his laboratory was dedicated to machinery for prototyping trial versions of new devices. Every manner of drill, plane, saw, vice, and press were available for use. A warehouse of every imaginable nut and screw and raw material gathered from around the world was maintained solely for crafting prototypes to test and improve ideas to offer the public. Prototypes were rigorously tested for how they would be used by everyday consumers long before they were put into production for commercial distribution. It was necessary to TEST ideas, not just assume that a device would work, or even if it did work, would end users benefit from it?

It was a great reminder of the importance of sketching and prototyping in tools when designing e-learning. We can’t know off hand what the optimal solution for a training problem is until we ask some “What if…?” questions and test our assumptions with real learners. We can be sure that blindly applying a solution for a previous problem is unlikely to be ideal. Yet that is so often what is done: designers use ineffective interaction formats simply because they are readily accessible in most authoring tools, and then churn out many hours of e-learning before even checking how the instruction will be received and whether it will be effective in any way. The limitations of the tools and materials at hand shouldn’t dictate the solution. Certainly the practicality of an implementation depends on the availability of resources, but if those limits are used as the driving force behind a design, we’ll never extricate ourselves from the morass of ineffective designs that we too often are mired in.

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Tags: e-Learning Design, Prototyping, ATD, Ethan Edwards

A Year in Review: Our Top 20 e-Learning Blog Posts of 2014

Posted by Allen Interactions on Mon, Dec 29, 2014

The end of a year is a great time to stop and reflect; to look at our successes and failures and evaluate how we can move forward, to push further and grow in the coming year. So in the spirit of looking back, here are your top 20 favorite e-Learning Leadership Blog posts from 2014!

What topics do you want to hear about in 2015? Leave a comment below!

1. Today's e-Learning: Michael Allen & Experts Say "Enough is Enough"

by Allen Interactions | Four learning experts, Michael Allen, Julie Dirksen, Clark Quinn, and Will Thalheimer say "enough is enough" with today's e-learning.

2. Ten Invaluable Books for Instructional Design

by Angel Green | Angel Green provides her list of the 10 most invaluable books that every instructional designer should read!

3. Gamify Your e-Learning Solutions

by Angel Green | In this blog post, Angel Green discusses the importance of adding gamification elements to your e-learning designs.

4. Tweetable Quotes from e-Learning Professionals

by Allen Interactions | Here is a list of are some of the best quotes about training, success and e-learning. Do you know other sharable learning quotes?

5. Three Steps to Get More Our of Your SMEs

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Tags: List

Don't Create e-Learning No One Wants...Lessons From Holiday Sweaters

Posted by Ethan Edwards on Mon, Dec 22, 2014

by Ethan Edwards, chief instructional strategist

‘Tis the season of snow and cold…and holiday sweaters—each lovingly created with all good intent, sometimes gaudy, sometimes uncomfortable, sometimes utilitarian, but rarely as beautiful as imagined. The same can so often be said about e-learning modules. We start out with brave intentions to create something uniquely satisfying, but after accounting for strained resources, limited time, imperfect development tools, complex subject matter, and unpredictable learners, we end up with something not quite as beautiful as we’d hoped. 

Oddly, many of the problems with these holiday sweaters mirror the problems with failed e-learning.

The Content Dump

This sweater does nothing but deliver the goods…compact and concentrated but no effort to enliven the relentless sequence of too many white stitches. The same thing happens when we agree with subject matter experts (SMEs) that the highest priority is simply getting the information online—importing text-heavy PowerPoint slides or text documents (page 1 of 45 anyone?)—making the learner responsible for creating any meaning out of this relentless uniformity.

The Misapplied Templates

On the one hand there’s nothing wrong with this sweater…pleasing traditional patterns combined into a whole. The problem is, the patterns don’t go together, and the repetition makes what might have been interesting on its own almost unbearable. The same thing happens when question templates are applied indiscriminately and in too great of repetition without regard for the overall impact on the learner. The instructional intent matters and interactions need variety to address the meaningful details in any training problem. 

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Tags: e-Learning Design, LMS, Mobile Learning, Ethan Edwards, Humor

Embracing the Serious eLearning Manifesto

Posted by Michael Allen on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

by Michael Allen, chairman & CEO

Given decades of informative research on instructional paradigms, human learning, and performance measurement, it seems the burgeoning e-learning industry would have achieved enormous success in bringing each learner to a state of performance mastery economically and as quickly as possible. Instead, however, it seems the industry continually degrades its offerings—relying on technology for learner engagement and focusing more on content presentation than on learner needs and performance improvement.

In disappointment and frustration and as an attempt to disrupt the current, discouraging trends that have diminished prospects of beneficial impact, the Serious eLearning Manifesto has been put forth to bring attention to the foundations of effective e-learning.  In this blog, I’d like to review the eight values and characteristics of Serious eLearning. Although each topic is worthy of a focused treatise, let’s step through the comparison briefly.

Typical eLearning

Serious eLearning

Content focused
Efficient for authors
Knowledge delivery
Fact testing
One size fits all
One-time events
Didactic feedback

Performance focused
Meaningful to learners
Authentic contexts
Realistic decisions
Individualized challenges
Spaced practice
Real-world consequences

1. Content vs. performance focus.

Perhaps most detrimental to achieving both individual and organizational goals is drowning learners in quickly forgotten content presentations. Typical e-learning does exactly that. Subject matters experts and designers concentrate on presenting exhaustive volumes of information. With development time and resources constrained, learning activities that lead to skill development are given short shrift. This approach leads to minimal outcomes. A better alternative is to narrow content scope and provide carefully selected and sequenced situational practice based on identified, high value performance skills.

2. Authoring efficiency vs. meaningful learning.

Because positive impact is so often assumed and not measured, project managers respond to what is measured; and that’s usually production cost and speed. In a truly odd and iron twist of logic, authoring time has become treated as a more precious commodity than learning time. Yet, a few more authoring hours can result in many less training hours and significantly lowered training costs. In any case, the focus needs to be on providing learning experiences that are meaningful and helpful to each learner; that is, we need to produce effective learning. If it takes more authoring time to do that, it remains a wise investment rather than wasting huge volumes of expensive learner time.

3. Driving attendance vs. attracting learners.

With inefficient and boring e-learning, organizations must often mandate learners wade through their e-learning. The assumption is that if people attend, the goal has been achieved. If they can, learners will obviously opt out of boring experiences, often preferring instead to interrupt another person to get direction—direction that may need to be offered hastily and may be far from the best advice. In serious e-learning, designers work to engage learners who may, because they benefitted so much, become promoters of the training and encourage their peers to give it a try.

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Tags: Serious eLearning Manifesto, Michael Allen

Four Questions that Shift You into Design Success

Posted by Ann Iverson on Tue, Dec 16, 2014

by Ann Iverson, instructional designer | @iverson_ann

“Question everything!”Albert Einstein

As an instructional designer, I think the most important part of my job occurs in the design phase of a project. Not only am I building relationships and setting the stage, I’m working to create the blueprint for the entire learning experience. Essential design activities: include identifying the learner audience, what learners need to do to be successful, and what the main challenges are and how those challenges cause performance gaps. And the best way to get all that information, and more, is to facilitate a design meeting or, as we call it at Allen Interactions, a Savvy Start.

In the Design Thinking for the Instructional Designer guide, Angel Green defines the Savvy Start as a “solutions brainstorming event in which the design team, including key stakeholders, review collected background information and generate initial design solutions.” She goes on to say, “During the Savvy Start, we work to define, ideate, prototype, and test initial design solutions.”

One of the activities Angel suggests is to brainstorm a list of questions with the Savvy team, identifying those that dig deeper than, “What should the learner be able to do?” For example, the performance goal of a new retail employee is to provide exceptional service to every customer. Additional questions help stakeholders categorize that broad performance goal into specific activities, for example, how employees should greet customers, follow the return policy, or respond to customers when an item is out of stock.

Questions are the key to success in the design phase, and having a Question Thinking (QT) mindset is essential. In her book Change Your Questions, Change Your Life, Marilee Adams defines QT as a system of tools for transforming thinking, action, and results through skillful question asking—questions we ask ourselves as well as those we ask others. She discusses the power of questions to direct our thinking, and therefore our actions. It’s about asking the right questions to move forward and drive results.

The right questions drive design sessions, and the entire project outcome. In fact, I believe that as an instructional designer, I’m only as strong as my weakest question. If I can be mindful of how I’m asking something, and reshape the question so it’s more focused, positive and/or open-ended, then I can shift the team’s perspectives and move us toward fresh ways of looking at things. Ms. Adams gives an example in her book of the impact of changing a question:

Questions have even changed the course of history. Think about this. Long ago, nomadic societies were driven by the implicit question, “How do we get ourselves to water?” Yet look what happened when their implicit question changed to, “How do we get water to come to us?” That new question initiated one of humanity’s most significant paradigm shifts.

Awareness and intention are key here. Ms. Adams describes two types of mindsets—the Learner and the Judger—and, with awareness, we can choose to be in either one. But, as you can guess, the Learner mindset is more productive and positive. The goal at the Savvy Start is to take on a Learner mindset and create a Learner team: high performers focused on collaborative inquiry. You can do both by asking yourself the right questions. Let’s take a look at four questions you can ask to shift into Learner mode for a successful design outcome.

Instead of this…

How can I prove this is the right way?

Try this…

What other ways could we get learners to the same result?

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Tags: Successive Approximation Model (SAM), Savvy Start, e-learning success, Design Thinking