Posts Tagged ‘instructional-design’

What I learned about learning… and myself… in 2008

December 22, 2008 Leave a comment

This month’s big question is about what we as learning professionals learned about learning this past year (2008). I think I’ve learned a lot, like:

  • It doesn’t have to be Second Life to be immersive and engaging.
  • The Wow factor for Second Life wore off. I like it, but I’m not engaged by it anymore.
  • The staying power or social & peer-to-peer learning is more and more obvious
  • eLearning is still ok and useful – formal learning has a place in workplace learning
  • I’m ok with not using the fancy words when talking about workplace learning… I’m much better about being straightforward and using words and explanations that my clients understand (without an additional explanation to explain the explanation)
  • We’re boring (I didn’t say this… but I agree with it)… Instructional designers often take it to the boring level by focusing on the structures and formality of what they learned in grad school and not focusing on what the person sitting in this course needs to do at the end of it

I think we (as learning professionals) spend a lot of time making it complicated to justify our positions/existence/PhD or masters degree. And the complexity & rigor is necessary to create a learning environment that’s effective. But I also think we lose some of the wonder of learning by focusing on the prescribed methods that were rammed down our throats in the past. In 2009 I’m planning on spending a little more time looking for that wonder that I’ve lost in the past.


Virtual Worlds & Learning – can it work?

June 10, 2008 1 comment

The big question for June is on the use of Second Life for training. As always there are several questions:

  • In what situations, do you believe it makes sense to develop a learning experience that will be delivered within Second Life?
  • If you were to develop a training island in Second Life, what kind of environment and artifacts would you consider essential for teaching?
  • Just as there are considerable differences in blended learning and virtual classroom training, what are some of the major differences (surprises) in training within virtual worlds?

I personally find the 1st & 3rd questions most relevant. The second question, around the artifacts that would be essential to teaching really depends on the type of learning interaction you’re designing.

I think, just like eLearning, a virtual world (such as Second Life) can be used in most learning interactions… as long as it’s a meaningful interaction. So, we’re pretty much all on the same page with what doesn’t work in workplace learning – lectures (whether it’s a person in the class, on the phone, or text-only on the screen eLearning). Yet, I find all too often, a learning environment in a virtual world mimics a classroom. There’s a lecture hall and a podium and slides. If it doesn’t work in real life, it won’t work there!

<end rant>

In my opinion a fabulous interaction in a virtual world is one that you can’t recreate in the real world, such as:

  • If you’re trying to teach medical students about schizophrenia, take them to the Virtual Hallucinations sim where they can experience what it’s like to hear voices in your head.
  • If you’re trying to explain to a journalist what they’ll experience when they’re on site in a refugee camp, take her to the Camp Darfur sim to give exposure to what the environment can be like.
  • If you’re studying fashion design, use your avatar to create sample looks.
  • If you’re creating a course on landscaping for a home building centre, have participants check out some Botanical gardens.

These sims weren’t necessarily created as “learning environments” but they work that way. They provide experiential learning at its finest. And that’s the key, the experience is memorable. Just like in any other type of learning.

Question 3 asks us about the major differences between learning in virtual worlds and learning in a classroom. I think the two major differences are: how you facilitate and the required prior knowledge. Let me tell you a story. I presented in Second Life to a part-time MBA class a few weeks ago. I was under the impression that while most participants were new to SL, they had been in world before. I was also under the impression that I would facilitate the content and the professor and TA would facilitate the “event”. Double-wrong.

Only one participant had been in world before. The ramp up time to use a virtual world is not the same as the time to learn to participate in a virtual classroom (or eLearning interface). Movement, chat, voice, clothing, and space all have to be considered. Simultaneously. Furthermore, facilitating the content (i.e., presenting) while trying to help a participant learn how to use voice is impossible. Think about a virtual classroom presentation. While one facilitator is talking and presenting to the group, the other is monitoring the chat pod and answering questions. The same division of labour is required for a virtual world, except the event facilitators need to be proficient in the virtual world… and there needs to be more than one of them.

I don’t know that Second Life (or another VW) is the killer app for learning. But if offers us (as designers & learners) the opportunity to explore content in a different way. And that’s a really, really great thing!

Designing Learning for Digitial Natives (aka GenY, aka Millenials, aka Next Generation of Workers)

The Big Questions for May are:

  • Do you believe that we have to design, develop and deliver instruction differently for the so-called Digital Natives?
  • Are there differences in learning expectations and styles or can we just design good instruction and know that it meets all generational needs?
  • If you have an audience that includes natives and immigrants, how can you effectively design instruction without breaking the bank?

The second question is the one that really captures my attention. We’re at a point now where people, regardless of age, are tired of reading reams of text without context, without personal meaning, and without impact. ADDIE, ARCS, Blooms, etc. box Learning Designers into a scripted method of design that typically yields topic-centred, page-turning, predictable eLearning…. you know the kind I mean… the “Upon completion of this course you should be able to…. blah blah blah” eLearning.

Maybe, we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard. Why are millenials the only ones who want to be engaged, who want to learn at the moment they need it not 3 months before, who need a social component to their workplace learning? Why do we think Boomers want to read an eBook instead of take a eLearning course?

When will we realize that it’s time we dropped the prescribed methods that were developed 20 years ago and looked at what our learners need…. each time we design a learning solution for them?

I’ve been reading Michael Allen’s books lately and attended Ethan Edwards (from Allen Interactions) session at the eLearning Guild’s Annual Gathering in April. We can do better. Is it more work? YES! Is it worth the effort? YES!

We will rarely (never?) be in a situation where we’re designing learning for only one generation. Our workplaces are made up of multiple generations. We should be designing not for the digital immigrants, not for the digital natives, but for the people that are taking the course. How?

  • Put the content into a context that meaningful TO THEM!
  • Challenge them apply the what they’re learning in realistic situations
  • Give them feedback that encourages them
  • Put them at risk of failure (they’ll fail in the real world!)
  • Let them connect with other people – peers, mentors, managers
  • Make them want it – create motivation around the solution

Design for your learner… regardless of when they were born.