Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

20 November 2006

Designing Informal

Clark @ 10:47 AM

I haven’t received Jay’s Informal Learning book yet (he’s promised it’s coming) but I’ve been thinking about informal learning a lot lately, not least because it’s emerged as an issue in some recent elearning strategy engagements.

One of the issues is the transition from novice to expert. I think Tony O’Driscoll’s model captures it elegantly, how the role of formal drops off and informal comes to play a bigger role as you transition from novice to expert. At the expert level, collaboration that is the knowledge negotiation process can be handled by email, blogs, and wiki. The problem is having the learner becoming part of the community from the beginning. I’d like to insist that it be baked into the LMS infrastructure, but I think instead that our elearning needs to be designed with communication and knowledge representation into it even for the most formal courses.

Which, of course, is hard to think of when you’re taking the typical siloed view of content and designing independent asynchronous courses. Which is why I’m arguing for a performance focus for organizations.

For example, the learning follow-on systems touted by Will Thalheimer, the example Jay Cross posted about where a new app emailed him several times over several days with further tips, and my own ‘layered learning’ model for slow learning.

Along the same lines, in a couple of recent engagements I’ve been suggesting that customer help needs to have a single entry point, with self-help resources and then an obvious and steady progression forward through getting assistance if the answer doesn’t already exist (ala my Learning At Large paper, PDF).

The points being that we need a broader focus, and our instructional design has to be augmented with information design and information architecture. It’s about supporting performance, not just about courses.

17 November 2006

Models up!

Clark @ 6:24 PM

Just briefly, I finally created a page of some of the models I use in design. I’ve talked about the power of models before, but now I’ve finally taken the time to make them web-sized and put a few of them up. These are ones I’ve created, and

  • they’re not all I use (I have more, and I bring in others as necessary)
  • they get modified in use
  • they’re not all I have

but it’s a representative set. At last!

9 November 2006

Not your father’s ISD/ADDIE/HPT

Clark @ 9:45 AM

Joining, once again, the Learning Circuit blog’s big question of the month, which this month is “Are ISD / ADDIE / HPT relevant in a world of rapid elearning, faster time-to-performance, and informal learning?”. A fun thing that they’ve started. My initial short answer was, of course, “yes”, but continued “but not the same ISD/ADDIE/HPT”.

However, as I started writing this I realized that keeping the labels ISD/ADDIE/HPT is probably not good in the long run, so that probably means my answer is “no”…

We need a design process. Without knowing what we’re trying to achieve, metrics that let us know how we’re doing, and ownership of the outcomes, among other things, you don’t have any idea what you’re doing. However, it’s not always going to fall into either a course or a job aid. There’re more solutions under the sun than are dreamt of in the philosophies that led to those old approaches.

You need a recognition, as Tony O’Driscoll has elegantly articulated, of the way support needs change as a learner moves from novice to expert. When do you provide community instead of content?

You need a recognition, as Jay Cross is suggesting, that many times self-directed learners may be better served with information resources than with courses.

You need a recognition, as Marc Rosenberg tells us, that knowledge management and other areas are part of our responsibility of meeting performance needs, not just skill needs.

And you need a recognition, as I’ve argued, that you can’t assume self-directed learners, so your learning design might include objectives of creating self-directed learners while addressing the obvious gap. And a recognition that, a barrier that may appear to be a knowledge/skill gap may really be an attitude gap, or some other hurdle.

In addition, our capabilities have changed, and we have new opportunities that we didn’t have before, such as layering little bits of knowledge around and on top of or the events in our life to use those as practice opportunities and not having to simulate them in an artificial course (an approach I’m calling layered learning, part of my ‘slow learning’ movement). This is a mobile affordance, but we also have some webservices affordances (e.g. Web 2.0) to do much more customized learning delivery, and more.
So we need a systematic process, but we need a broader perspective. We should keep our feet firmly planted in the ground of what’s known about how people learn, and recognize what makes an effective process. Sometimes the approach will look like the output of ISD, but other times it may be considerably different.

Whether we continue with the moniker’s of ISD/ADDIE/HPT, or use a term like ‘cognitive design’ or ‘learning design’ (what I call what I do) to overthrow the baggage and limitations of those approaches, is a different issue. I’ve been suggesting for a while that our labels are a barrier to our success, keeping us mired in limited approaches. As a bit of marketing (and when we’re selling our organizational value to the C-suite we need to market our benefits), training and instructional design don’t cut the mustard. Not that I’ve solved this; learning design is slightly better, cognitive design starts taking us far afield (and brings up some other bad images), performance system design might be misconstrued, etc. Yet somehow we have to broaden our perspective.

I have to admit I wasn’t as familiar with comes closest, and ISPI’s definition (courtesy of Harold Jarche) sounds like what I’m talking about, but then why isn’t it better known? And the label isn’t compelling, to address those issues we’ve talked about above.
So, process yes, old approaches no. When we have a course to develop, we might use ISD, but there’re lots of times we’ll want to consider other approaches.

3 November 2006


Clark @ 11:28 AM

Jay Cross is highlighting visuals. I’m very conceptual, so I don’t usually use photographs, but I’m very big on graphics. Those who know me and/or have heard me speak will know that I’m always bringing in or creating graphics around the models I use.

And I’m big on models. In fact, I load a number of them on my Treo to carry around. They get too small to read, but the spatial relationships are there and I can refer to them or share and talk to them (one of the ways I strive to see how my ‘external brain’ can make me smarter).

The power of graphics is, as implied above, capturing conceptual relationships spatially. Jill Larkin & Herb Simon had a great Cognitive Science article on “Why pictures are worth a 1000 words” that talked about this.

As one of my steps to better elearning, I recommend multiple representations (from Rand Spiro’s Cognitive Flexibility Theory) of the concept. I believe that if you’re presenting a concept, there are probably conceptual relationships, so you should be able to create a spatial mapping, and always at least supplement prose with a diagram at minimum.

So, why haven’t I included them in my blogs? Because, frankly, I don’t know how! So I experimented to see if WordPress would know to upload an image if I specified I want one, but instead it wants a URL. So I guess I might have to go wild and create a page somewhere or something. Stay tuned!
More visuals, please!

1 November 2006

6 words

Clark @ 9:45 AM

Jay Cross’ InternetTime Blog pointed me to Mark Oehlert’s eClippings post about 6 word learning plans. I’m reminded of the 3 word design mantra I used way back when I was at Access Australia Cooperative Multimedia Centre: “Do, Review, Refine”. The first obvious extension is to iterate: “Do, Review, Refine, Repeat”.

I suppose you have to have a goal, and of course you shouldn’t just Do first, so “Goal, Plan, Do, Review, Refine, Repeat”. Not quite happy with it, as I think the four word version has better rhythm, but if I *must* have 6…

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