At the TechKnowledge conference (good conference, and a better venue next year I’m sure), I had the honor of being on a panel with my fellow committee members who are some really interesting thinkers around elearning, including Frank Nguyen from American Express, Cris Stewart from Four Seasons, Paul Sparks from Pepperdine University, and ably chaired by Paula Orologas of the Capital Group Companies. We were talking about new trends, and I didn’t think until too late that what I’d like to end with is the trend I don’t hear people talking about but wish they were.
As a bit of context, for one I heard a very interesting talk from Visa about how they were single-sourcing their content, to make their content development more practical and deliver in more ways. I’ve talked before about content models, and here was someone pushing that agenda forward. I subsequently had a conversation with another conference attendee who was taking the idea even further forward. The point being, that if you structure your content you can scaffold (read: support) the development of content, and you can do some powerful things as you’ve semantically tagged the role of the content.
Second, I volunteered for ‘face time’, which allows speakers to volunteer to be available for free 20 minute consultation sessions. In one of those, I talked to a fellow who was developing technical training. In this case, I suggested using mental models as a key. The benefits of mental models are that while they may take longer to develop initially, that’s for one or two uses of the model, and with software that model gets used across many different commands spread across quite a few menus, you’re going to get real power. So, you present several examples of how to do things linking the model to the software interface, and then you have the learner predict how to do several more, using the model. From there, if you’ve done it right, you shouldn’t need more training, learners should be able to predict, from the model, how to do new things. And some ancillary benefits: if you change some of the interface, this shouldn’t be a burden; if a learner forgets a step, they can typically regenerate it. And they can predict how to do new things. It’s because of the relationships in the model tying together the disparate bits.
My hope, then, is that this becomes the year of the model(s). The trend that I’d like to see is more people taking advantage of these powerful ideas, moving beyond procedural and hand-crafted elearning to systemic and systems-thinking based learning support. How about you?