Upcoming webinar presented by Ethan Edwards, chief instructional strategist
Tuesday, June 25th | 1:00 - 2:00 PM (Central)
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, on a journey of uncovering the 10 very common design practices, that, IF followed, are a SURE way to RUIN your e-learning.
Register now for access to the 10 Ways To Ruin Your e-Learning by Following Commonly-Held Practices e-Book!
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Angel Green, senior instructional strategist
Yesterday was the first official day of the ASTD ICE 2013 conference here in Dallas, Texas and we are off to a great start to the conference. Though my feet were aching at the end of the day, I was glad to have the chance to spend the majority of my time in the Allen Interactions booth. I love getting to meet people, talking to them about their unique and interesting companies and jobs.
Where else but at an international conference do you have the opportunity to talk to someone from Saudi Arabia who is developing leadership training, a one-woman learning and development department who has been on her job for one week and has no background in instructional design, and the chief learning officer of a Fortune 100 company?
The best part of my day, however, was lunch. And not because the food was incredible or because I got to sit down for a half hour, but rather because of the conversation we had at our lunch table. During the course of the meal, our banter ranged from the benefits and challenges of mobile learning, what to do when training isn’t the issue, and how to measure the ROI for training development.
In the discussion of ROI, one woman stated she was uncomfortable setting a “success target” on a specific metric. She was afraid training alone couldn’t move the needle enough. She recognized the operational and managerial issues which cause employee performance to slip, not simply because they don't know how to perform the specific task.
My wise colleague, Richard Sites, had a powerful response to her statement. He advised her to tell the project owners that if they wanted to measure ROI, then they needed to start looking at the project as an investment rather than a cost. If they weren’t willing to carry some of the burden by making the recommended organizational changes – to invest in the project – then they were simply looking at the project as a cost. That’s why an investment is an investment and not just a cost. Project owners need to put some skin in the game as well. So smart!
See, that’s the brilliance of conferences and why they are so important to attend! We all struggle with similar issues, whether you are a one woman department or the head of a major learning operation. The beauty of coming together is the opportunity to have these moments where we can share best practices and learn from one another.
Are you at ASTD ICE? What is your impression so far? Attend any great sessions? See any really cool demos in the Expo Hall? Share your comments with us!
We are proud to announce award-winning recognition to the tune of 6 awards – 3 Communicator Awards & 3 Horizon Interactive Awards! Congratulations to our wonderful clients and studios for creating award-winning e-learning experiences that are meaningful, memorable, and motivational for their employees!
You can view our case studies and course demos or get a glimpse of the Gold award-winning Manhattan Associates course by checking out the on-demand webinar here.
Gold, Manhattan Associates, Supply Chain Fundamentals
Silver, HD Supply, Lessons for Sales Success
Silver, AutoNation, AutoNation SmartChoice™ Sales Menu e-Learning
Horizon Interactive Awards
Silver, CTEL, Wheelchair Securement
Bronze, Manhattan Associates, Supply Chain Fundamentals
Bronze, AutoNation, AutoNation SmartChoice™ Sales Menu e-Learning
About the Communicator Awards
The Communicator Awards is the leading international awards program honoring creative excellence for communication professionals. Founded by communication professionals over a decade ago, The Communicator Awards is an annual competition honoring the best in advertising, corporate communications, public relations and identity work for print, video, interactive, and audio. This year’s Communicator Awards received thousands of entries from companies and agencies of all sizes, making it one of the largest awards of its kind in the world.
About the Horizon Awards
The Horizon Interactive Awards is a prestigious international competition recognizing outstanding achievement among interactive media producers. The competition recognizes and awards the best web sites, videos, online advertising, print media, and mobile applications. Each year, the Horizon Interactive Awards receives thousands of entries from all over the world. A panel of industry professionals, from diverse multi-media, graphic design and marketing backgrounds, review the entries to determine the work that is to be recognized.
by Mary-Scott Hunter, vice president - client services
Anyone who reads my blog posts knows I’m a fan of applying gaming principles – as they fit – to e-learning. It’s one thing to discuss that relationship in theory and quite another to find application from specific games. For science and posterity, I decided to conduct a user testing experiment.
This past weekend, I had the pleasure of hosting my dear friend and colleague, Edmond, at my home to watch him play Journey by That Game Company. Edmond was an ideal noob (new gamer) for me to observe because we’ve been friends for many years and I can accidentally shout, “FIND COVER FROM THE BLIZZARD, YOU IDIOT” In return, he will only grunt and then demand another beer.
I love watching noobs. I learn so much about interface design, where learners struggle, and what they need to succeed. As an experienced gamer of many years, I simply forget how the noob thinks.
And yes, it’s also frustrating to watch the noob blithely stumble around in circles, consistently walking into walls and then standing there inert while predators gather. Much like pioneer naturalist Dian Fossey, I observed my own gorilla as he battled his lack of experience blundering through one of the more profound gaming experiences available on console. Sure, I wanted to scream. Instead, I channeled my smoldering frustration at Edmond’s ridiculous blunders into insights about e-learning.
Gorilla observation #1: Noobs come with baggage
Edmond picked up the console and held it with some reservation. With his boots on my coffee table, he said, “This isn’t like the last game, right? It took me 45 minutes to craft my avatar.”
Edmond’s and my last game-playing experience was well over a year ago. He stumbled around a military bunker (mostly walking into walls) for an hour before giving up. There simply was not enough reward for him to keep playing. Even the promise of zombie hordes waiting to be demolished could not pacify a zombie-lover like him. He was frustrated with how long it took to pick out character details and frustrated by doing anything that he considered ‘meaningful.’
He brought that old baggage with him to Journey.
Do not assume that learners come to your e-learning ready and eager to play. Do not assume that they’re ‘thrilled’ that the previous two-day class has been replaced by three hours of e-learning. Just because you’re excited, do not assume learners feel ‘rewarded.’ They will each decide for themselves whether it’s reward or torture.
Over the years, I have witnessed clients co-design amazing interactions and then saddle the experience with a clumsy, over-drawn out introduction that explains (in 22 short pages) how to get started. Baggage.
Journey begins with selecting a new game or continuing an existing one. And then, suddenly, you’re in the desert.
Gorilla observation #2: Expressing frustration is not the same as giving up
Edmond was mystified at how there were no instructions onscreen. No rule books or heavy-handed explanations. Edmond held the console, inert, confused. He turned to me for instructions but I refused to help.
He eventually noticed a relationship between where the console pointed at the screen and his ability to physically see the landscape. He turned the console to the right and gradually swept over the panoramic, high-definition desert, dunes, and monoliths under a blistering sun. He giggled with delight once he established his relationship with the controls. Three minutes later, he began his cautious experimentation.
“What are those things?” he would ask every few seconds. “What do they do? Do I use those monoliths to get power gems or something?” I would not answer and he would growl at me. But this forced him to master the controls with greater precision so he could advance his avatar closer to the destination and ‘investigate.’
When he paid attention to details and talked out his assumptions, he learned things. But as our e-learning audience knows, it’s easier to ask questions before trying to learn for oneself. It’s easier to complain and quit than stay involved.
Edmond growled at me a few times, but he did not give up. And when he discovered a truth about the world created within Journey and he expressed his satisfaction at discovering an answer.
Gorilla observation #3: Noobs make brilliant mistakes
Part of the challenge of withholding judgment while a noob plays your favorite game (besides the sore tongue from constantly biting it) is that the noob can go anywhere, do anything, and waste a whole lot of time in the process.
I watched Edmond explore minor buildings in abandoned ruins while ignoring the main structure that held secret to advance. He didn’t know that. He hadn’t manipulated his camera controls enough to view the main ruin. Every experienced gamer knows to look for the biggest attraction on the horizon – that’s where the power is. So instead of exploring Mount Rushmore, he happily jogged his avatar around the equivalent of a rest stop.
He discovered a fountain of golden light, and before I could break my vow of silence to say, “No, wait,” he raced his character to the edge and cannonballed through the portal, ending up in a completely foreign landscape. He shocked me. I had no recognition of the world where he emerged, and I had played this game multiple times. Why did he jump through that minor portal? Where were we now? What about all the necessary skill-building that he bypassed by doing something ridiculous?
When I asked him why he did that, he shrugged and offered this brilliant explanation: “I dunno.”
We often profess to want to give learners control of their environment and then don’t like it when they don’t go where we think they should go, or learn in the sequence we want. Edmond’s lack of explanation was frustrating. If he had only justified his answer, I could tell myself, “Well, at least he’s learning.” But noobs don’t always have brilliant explanations into their decision-making. If Edmond played more video games he would have known about the importance of scanning the landscape for buildings of greater significance.
Still, he unlocked a scene in Journey I had never discovered. I watched in amazement as he plodded through a wintery landscape, blizzard winds, and gorgeous snowfall. He walked himself into a stone cliff and while continuing to try to walk through solid rock, said, “Cool.”
Gorilla observation #4: Given the right motivation, learners will learn
Edmond was playing the game wrong. He had skipped necessary lessons that would help him in future levels. While he ran his avatar through the snow, with the same pleasure he experienced in the desert, I worried that the rest of his experience would be diminished by all that he had missed.
And something odd happened.
He figured it out.
As he gained more dexterity over the controls, he mastered the art of scanning the 360 degree environment. He stopped slamming himself into rocks and learned the skillful ascension of icy marble steps on a castle cliff in the howling wind. At one point as his avatar struggled through the tundra, he said with surprise, “Hey, my guy is crusted over with ice. Is he getting cold? Shouldn’t there be a way for him to warm up?”
It didn’t take long before he figured out his environment, even though he had approached it all wrong. I knew (and he didn’t) that it would have been easier if he hadn’t jumped through the first portal. But nevertheless, he learned. Why did he learn? Because he was so hooked by the context and challenge.
I’ve seen content experts gnash their teeth just like me when some new person applies the wrong problem-solving technique to a problem. Or, they apply the right technique the wrong way, some distinction that means they won’t immediately see success. We want to fix it. Tell them they’re solving problems the wrong way. If they would only listen!
Edmond truly is a gorilla who grunted and batted my hand away when I offered to help his avatar out of a rocky wedge. Nope. He wanted to solve it himself. He was hooked.
Gorilla observation #5: Delight in cooperation
During Edmond’s painstaking journey through the frozen tundra, he jogged alongside a guide most of that time. They communicated through light and sound, no actual words. Eventually, Edmond figured out the necessary steps to further the quest. Edmond raced across the miraculous drawbridge only to plunge off the side (gotta work on that motor dexterity, Edmond) and his traveling companion deftly waltzed across the drawbridge easily.
He was shocked to discover – absolutely shocked – that the other ‘guide’ was not a computer-generated avatar designed to help him, but a real person somewhere out there in the world playing Journey at the same time. The news that he had been collaborating with a real person thrilled him: I’m not alone out here. There are others.
Your corporate training on ethics and security may not boast multi-player functionality. But, you don’t need that to connect employees to one another, to allow them the thrill of unlocking something hidden and accidentally stumbling across a real person, perhaps another employee who planted a flag in the very same spot. What if instead of carefully staged VP testimonials, a user actually discovered real people, speaking in real language, telling insights and anecdotes that are only accrued as secret rewards?
The thrill in “I’m not alone out here” is not to be underestimated.
Gorilla observation #6: The affect is everything
I am tempted to explain Edmond’s end game and how he achieved the beauty of his journey. I want to, but discussing it ruins the possibility of you exploring this yourself and I hope that interested readers will invest the time to explore Journey (and then email me about it).
I will say that after two hours of non-stop gaming, Edmond turned to me at the conclusion and said, “When can we play this again?”
You could argue that the skills Edmond developed are not exactly the same as Corporate America’s agenda: greater sales, better customer service, and decreased inefficiencies. True. But he spent two hours fixated on acquiring skills he did not know he desperately wanted. And after two hours of uninterrupted game play his first objective was to schedule more time.
My time with this gorilla reminded me of the power of user testing. Edmond ruined several opportunities of focused skill-building and he didn’t care. His lack of gamer-aptitude did nothing to damper the joy and elation he felt floating his avatar through one heavenly environment.
If someone had asked me what the user experience of playing Journey was like, I could have told them. You will feel this and you will find joy here. I would have been partially right. But I also would have been wrong. Only actual end users can genuinely define their own experiences. And they have much to tell us if we give them a banana and take out our notebook to watch what happens next.
In this episode of Iterations, Richard Sites and Angel Green offer insights on how to effectively manage e-learning course reviews in an iterative process (SAM). Hear how properly planning, selecting the right team members, and managing the comments collected at each review, helps reduce the burden and risks often associated with e-learning course reviews.
vice president - client services and co-author of Leaving ADDIE for SAM
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senior instructional strategist
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by Angel Green, senior instructional strategist | @LearnerAdvocate
In a recent Iterations video blog, Richard Sites and I discussed the SAVVY Start. We chose this topic because after making the rounds to a few ASTD chapters and conferences, it is apparent the SAVVY Start strikes a chord with our audience.
In fact, almost immediately after the video posted, a viewer asked the very same question we have been asked many times before—can you video tape a SAVVY Start and post it?
The answer to that question is, unfortunately, no. Trust me, while being a fly on the wall in a SAVVY Start might seem like a cool concept, the reality is that this meeting is not something anyone would or should watch. Sure, we could probably hire actors and make an “ideal” version of a SAVVY Start, but it wouldn’t be real. And having cameras in an actual SAVVY Start would cause people to hold back when we need them to be their most honest.
In Leaving ADDIE for SAM, Chapters 7-11 are dedicated to the Preparation Phase of the SAM and provide a very detailed explanation of how to successfully schedule, manage, and lead a SAVVY Start. If you decide to start conducting SAVVY Starts for your project, I highly recommend reading the book to get the type of in-depth explanation I simply cannot provide in a blog.
However, since so many of you are curious about the SAVVY Start, and being the firm believer in them that I am, I thought I would continue the conversation of our video blog.
“Start with Performance to End with Performance”
Richard made this comment during the video blog and he is spot-on. This concept is so critical to understanding why the SAVVY Start is vital. Set the expectation with the team from the start that while content may be important, during this meeting the focus is on the performance.
The goal of a SAVVY Start, and using SAM, is to create performance-driven learning. Using SAM is not appropriate for developing a content heavy e-learning course or classroom based lecture. If you want to develop a content heavy course with some multiple choice questions or drag and drops interspersed throughout, then simply ask for the content and move forward with development. There is no instructional design necessary in a page turner. You can make it pretty, and “judge” the learners based on their ability to answer a few questions, but there certainly isn’t a need to have a meeting where you ask people to abandon their ‘real jobs’ for a few days to discuss the design.
However, if your goal is to create a performance change in learners—if you are asking them to eventually apply what you are teaching them—then the SAVVY Start is the ideal place to start.
You’ll likely get some pushback about the expense or time away. You are going to have to sell the fact that it is worth the effort. Explain the value of having everyone in a room together: “We are meeting because this is the best way for us to determine the performance we want learners to demonstrate, and more importantly to avoid. We believe the learning event we create from this meeting is vital for our organization because a change in performance will ______ [increase sales, decrease errors, reduce the burden on the help desk, or other measurable benefit].”
Create a Safe Environment
Once you have everyone in the room together, set the expectation that this is a safe environment. The meeting should be as fun and energizing as it is challenging and uncomfortable. Having been in many SAVVY Starts over the years I have been at Allen Interactions, I fear a conversation when everyone in the room is in agreement a majority of the time.
The ability to have differing opinions is absolutely necessary to dive into the real issues being faced by learners. This meeting is about improving performance—even if this is a new hire training course—there is likely to be disagreement of what good performance looks like and why some new hires just don’t cut it.
When performance is failing, the conversations are tough. There may be blame on why performance needs improving in the first place, or there may be organizational challenges outside the scope of what anyone in the room can control (reductions in force, pay, leadership). What you need to do as the SAVVY leader is facilitate these discussions, allowing everyone to share their opinion, listening to each.
A good question to begin the meeting with is: “Why do you believe we are here today?” or “What’s wrong?” Ask each member of the meeting and you’ll likely hear a different answer from each. The fact is, there are many reasons why employees may need improvement in performance.
Dive deep into the conversations of what’s wrong, and then move to the question, “What does good learning look like—to the employee, and to the organization?”
Only when you’ve answered these two questions—and this may take half a day or longer—can you begin to prototype.
The Value of Prototyping
Using the discussions about what is wrong and what good looks like, you should be able to start brainstorming some ideas for interactions that could place learners in situations where they can perform.
Ask your recent learners about the context of their work. What does it feel like when they can’t answer a question from a customer? How does their manager react when they deliver a report with errors on it? What is it they stumble through with the Point-of-Sale system? Who do they go to when they can’t get it to work?
From here, you should be able to identify some challenges and activities to drive to the performance you want to improve. Now, you can sketch them out. First on paper or a whiteboard. Don’t invest much time, just put pen to paper. Later, you can determine which of the sketches are worthy of spending a little more time using a tool like ZebraZapps to make them function. But, that’s another discussion for another blog.
End with the Beginning in Mind
The SAVVY Start began with the end in mind, but it ends with the beginning—the beginning of a great learning program that will change performance. Walking away from the SAVVY Start, after seeing the power of the prototypes and discussions, will leave the project team excited to get started.
Take advantage of the enthusiasm and set up a next steps call or date for the group to meet together again. Shortly after the SAVVY Ends, summarize the discussion and send the prototypes for the team to review. During your next call you can discuss any “ah-ha” moments that may have occurred following the SAVVY.
by Ethan Edwards, chief instructional strategist | @ethanaedwards
As I watch people from various areas of expertise move into the role of
e-learning instructional designer, it has become clear that we seem to have a rather vague idea of what instructional design for e-learning really is. It differs from more concrete areas of expertise, like being a carpenter. The skills and knowledge required for quality carpentry are pretty clearly defined, bound by a reasonable universe of application, and success is easy to recognize both by experts and less-informed customers.
But the tasks involved in instructional design for e-learning (that so often blend into development) are incredibly diverse and a universally-recognized measure of success or quality is non-existent. The vague and varying definitions of instructional design don’t exactly help clarify.; Here’s one definition: “the practice of creating instructional experiences which make the acquisition of knowledge and skill more efficient, effective, and appealing.” Like so many definitions, it’s not very helpful unless you already know what it means.
To help clarify the role of the instructional designer, I’m going to take an alternative approach (using a tried-and-true instructional design approach of examples and non-examples) to try to clarify our role.
An instructional designer is not simply a transcriber of information. Too often I see designers simply transferring textbook content or even narrative from a live presentation onto the screen. Rather than transcriber, an instructional designer needs to be a creative writer: taking a message, paring it down to the essentials, and expressing it in a conversational tone, creating a story arc that engages the learner’s imagination, even when the content might be dismissed as regulatory or boring.
An instructional designer is not simply a decorator. Compelling use of media, particularly graphic images, is central to any good e-learning program. But too often I see designers acting more as advanced scrap bookers - adding images to a presentation with the vague intention of making it somehow prettier and therefore more interesting. But media must be so much more than superficial ornamentation. Good instructional design requires media communication skills—an understanding of how to use media as a core element in effective communication.
And finally, an instructional designer is not a teacher. Granted teaching and instructional design have much in common., But a good teacher is constantly adapting in real time—shifting approaches at a moment’s notice between one student and another, often without more than a few seconds to formulate a plan, usually using considerable interpersonal skills to smooth what otherwise might be a rough experience. An instructional designer has no comparable role in e-learning. The e-learning designer is more like an architect whose work is all done in advance of the actual teaching event, and thus must be more formally analytical in identifying all the possible responses a learner might make to any given challenge, and then deciding which challenges will best support the design.
I hope my characterization doesn’t sound discouraging as that is certainly not my intent. Despite the lack of universally-accepted measures of quality, the potential for creativity, transformative impact, and learner empowerment is enormous if we, as instructional designers, open ourselves to the idea of being creative writers, media communication specialists, and architects of learning.
Tuesday, April 30, 1:00 - 2:00 PM Central
Nearly everyone, particularly learners, expresses frustration with the limited range of interactivity found in many e-learning programs. Arbitrary multiple-choice and true-and-false questions, even when masquerading under flashy game-like interfaces, fail to engage learners’ attention. Worse yet, they usually fail to teach.
Too often designers feel bound by the limits of actions available to the learner—senseless button clicking, random dragging, confusing entries. But, even working within the constraints of low-level authoring tools, it is possible to design e-learning activities that will engage, motivate, and captivate the learner’s imagination and enhance post-training performance.
In this webinar, Ethan Edwards will present 6 simple and easily achievable transformations to make your e-learning interactions more impactful. The intent is to provide designers across the board with tangible strategies they can implement immediately.
In this session, you will learn:
- to recognize and avoid the weaknesses inherent in meaningless actions
- to identify the characteristics of impactful gestures in e-learning interactions
- six simple and graduated techniques to improve e-learning interaction design
Join Ethan Edwards, chief instructional strategist, on Tuesday, April 30th at 1:00 PM Central for this 60-minute webinar.
I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce you to a colleague of mine, Trish Uhl.
As CEO of Owl's Ledge, a learning and performance and project management consulting firm, Trish travels the world speaking, coaching, and consulting with people and organizations about “professionalizing the learning profession” through the adoption of professional standards and skills-based assessment.
Trish and I met last year when we each presented at the ASTD-Memphis Employee Learning Week conference.
From dishing on training design and development, to pontificating on performance, we’ve kept the conversation going from Memphis to Malaysia, from ASTD to Training Magazine (and other training-related events in between) and we’ve decided that the dialogue would be richer, and even more lively, by adding other voices—like yours!
That being said, I’ve captured our conversation in a series of blog posts, starting with the one today.
Join us! We would be delighted if YOU—our learning-pro peers—dialogued with us on the state of the training industry and the learning profession; specifically, on what has changed and is changing for those of us who design learning (and, subsequently, for our peers who deliver training). Share your thoughts in the comments below!
RICHARD: Trish, we have discussed so many things about training and development over the past months, from content to processes to certification. One thing you say that always gets me thinking is, “What got us here won’t get us there.” I absolutely love how succinctly this describes our current state.
So tell us: What do you mean by that?
TRISH: Well, Richard, there are lots of critical transitions happening in the world of learning right now, and I believe we need a coalition of champions raising its voice in a chorus of “tough love” because…YES! What got us here won’t get us there.
What do I mean? I mean, it’s no secret, right? We’re at a point in time where we’ve spent years contending with a down economy in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere. We’ve had training budgets slashed and training staff downsized. Our training departments have been viewed as cost centers, rather than investments in the vitality, development, and growth of the organizations we serve.
We’ve had to do more with less—leverage technology, cut costs, go global, compete globally, keep overhead low, stay current, get things done (GTD), AND—simultaneously, somehow—drive positive organizational outcomes by improving human performance.
In many, many places, it’s not working. We are adrift, rudderless—without orientation of up, right, down, left, or center. The question is, WHY? Why are things so “out of whack?”
Let’s take a look at the evolution of adult learning theory—starting with Behaviorism from the early 1900s (yes, I said 1900s—the BEGINNING of the last CENTURY!).
Behaviorism looks at delivering training in a traditional classroom based upon prescribed objectives. “Learning” (conditioning, really) is achieved through the use of outside stimuli. Ultimately, mastery is measured by determining whether or not the learner has achieved the desired behavior.
Think about how the principles of behaviorism influenced training design and delivery in the early 20th century. Behaviorism provided the framework for who we were.
As trainers, we were experts in front of the classroom, dispensing our knowledge, expertise, and experience to the participants primarily through lecture. They, in turn, sat on their hands, smiled, and passively took it. (This is important! This means that is what our audiences EXPECT training to be! And some folks get horribly upset when you mess with their expectations, like, when you, say—design training to be more interactive. They, quite literally, don’t know how to act because it’s so far removed from their experiences and expectations.)
As instructional designers and course developers, we carefully designed for this method of delivery. And it served us well for ~ 100 years in the Industrial Age, when work was simpler, straightforward, and solutions were well known. Back then, an employee’s job was to show up on time, act as “order takers,” and execute on whatever they were told to do, whenever they were told to do it, according to how they were told to get it done.
But, what worked in the early 20th century is not working for us now in the throes of the 21st century. Now, we’re trying to fit this model and make it work in a world which is no longer the same. We attempt to take a subjective-centered approach to figure out creative ways to cram in as much content as we possibly could in ever-shrinking amounts of time. We’ve all been here: “Can you take this week long class and do it in two days? Can you do it in one day? Can you run just a 90-minute brown bag lunch.”
RICHARD: Trish, I see what you mean by “What got us here won’t get us there,” but we live in a world where people still equate delivering content with training. People—even those in learning and development—believe providing content is training (whether they admit it or not).
So we, those members of the tribe, need to have an understanding of how the beliefs of others impact our work. As we attempt to shift from designing content-focused training to performance and behavioral-focused instruction, we must recognize we will meet resistance to 21st century theories, methods, and models simply because they don’t match people’s habituated mental models.
TRISH: Yes, Richard, correct!
The problem is compounded by the fact that our sponsors (those who pay us to design and develop the training) expect it to be content-centric; and our audiences (those who receive the training we’ve designed) expect to remain passive as the training is inflicted upon them.
These perspectives are even more entrenched than we sometimes realize because we—instructional designers, trainers, learning professionals—forget that people expect training to mirror their earliest experiences with education.
Simply put, people equate training with the educational experiences they had growing up. They expect training to look and feel like how they were taught.
As social media guru, Jane Bozarth (aka the World's Oldest Millennial) has observed in her work, people will continue to hold these mental models and have these expectations until they have no longer grown up with this educational model.
Baby Boomers and Gen Xers were educated using a behaviorist approach, and as such, they were conditioned to believe that “learning” means recitation and rote memorization.
You and I fall into this group. We were rewarded in our academic careers by learning how to sit still during content-driven lectures. We were tested on knowledge recall and basic comprehension—“In what year was the Magna Carta signed? Who was King John of England?”
As such, we follow (old) training models based on antiquated and outdated teaching models.
RICHARD: So, if the foundations of our profession are built upon this type of behaviorist, content-driven training, are there other legacy structures we’re dealing with as well?
TRISH: Yes! Lots!
For example, simple, common models that we use today—like ADDIE—are phase-by-phase linear processes where you complete one phase then “fall” into the next.
We gravitated toward ADDIE and its attendant methodologies because it was akin to how the world worked in the Industrial Age. The problem is, the world doesn’t work like that anymore.
The Industrial Age is over.
The world has changed; work has evolved. Hierarchical top-down control has been replaced by matrices (cross-functional workgroups where leadership prays every day for nimble, adaptable, responsive teams). People spend less time in their day-to-day focused on routine, standard operating procedures and more time on the unstable complexities of cross-departmental project work.
Yet we haven’t changed; we’re still using the same old tools.
“If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” as Abraham Maslow said,
Our “hammer” worked just fine in the stability and routine pace of the Industrial Age—but those days are long since over. We are in constant states of chaos, complexity, and change. Our “new normal” is a VUCA world – volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. Work is dynamic, with shifting priorities that require problem solving as situations continue to evolve.
To survive, we have to think on our feet and respond appropriately to challenges as they present themselves. There is no more waiting for someone “from on-high” to come downstairs and tell the worker bees what to do, how to do it, and when to get it done. People need to figure it out on-the-fly. They need to be INNOVATIVE.
That’s how people survive; that’s how organizations will remain vital and competitive.
“Work is no longer ‘pre-figured,’ it is configured,’” to quote Fred Nickols.
RICHARD: Again, Trish, you have pinpointed the key issue. Our processes don’t adequately support what we should be, or could be, doing.
Whenever I write or speak about SAM (Successive Approximation Model), someone always says, “This is the same thing as ADDIE.”
While there are many differences between the two approaches, the key difference is that ADDIE (or whatever process you are following and calling ADDIE) does not start with the goal of changing learner performance.
Widely used instructional development processes are, instead, centered on the dissemination of content. The outcome of these processes is often boring, content heavy “training” that concludes with a multiple-choice quiz.
This type of “training” is easy to build and simple to track. It allows for everyone to give their two cents on the words being used and for learners to demonstrate their “completion.”
But this type of instructional self-validation does nothing for learners or performance improvement. These “courses” never come close to answering the question learners most want answered: “What does performance look like for me so I can be successful at my job?”
Therefore, there’s no value, other than the false pretense that, yes, someone can check a proverbial (or literal) box and say that “training” was provided.
TRISH: AGREED! But, what’s happening today is even worse than that, Richard!
Mobile learning guru Sarah Gilbert (meLearning Solutions) and I recently talked about exactly what you’ve described!
Sarah pointed out that not only do these types of courses typically end in useless (and meaningless) multiple-choice quizzes, but learners are “on to us.” They often review the quizzes first, then go back through the “course” to ferret out just enough content to be successful in selecting the correct answers on the quiz questions to get a passing score.
It not only accomplishes nothing of value to the organization; it also insults our learners’ intelligence, wastes their time, discredits real training programs, and, frankly, discredits real training professionals.
TRISH: Yes. Ouch. It’s time to for all of us to come together and start having real conversations rather than pandering to the status quo. It’s time to start actively and honestly “slaying the sacred (and antiquated) cows.”
What got us here won’t get us there.
We need to get rid of what no longer serves.
RICHARD: Agreed. Wow—lots to talk about!
Trish, in the next blog post, I’d like to get your thoughts on why we continue to hold these assumptions in our industry when we should know better.
On that note, we should put out a call-to-action to our training & development and learning-pro peers—we want to hear from YOU!
Please use the comments section below to let us know what you think!
- How has the role of the instructional designer or trainer changed for you in recent years?
- Does continuing to design and deliver training using a behaviorist, content-driven approach provide anything of value?
- Which instructional design models are you using? Why?
- How are you designing or delivering meaningful, memorable, motivational learning moments?
In this episode of Iterations, Richard Sites, vice president of client services and Angel Green, senior instructional strategist, discuss why learning experiences based on content are not adequate for the modern workplace. Join the discussion about knowing versus doing, why it is so prevalent, and its impact on your organization’s training efforts.
vice president - client services and co-author of Leaving ADDIE for SAM
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senior instructional strategist
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