Cathy Moore has a lovely post with a slideshow that talks about using action mapping to design better elearning, and it’s a really nice approach. While I don’t know from Action Mapping (tm?), I do know that the approach taken avoids the typical mistakes and focuses on the same thing I advocate: what do people need to be able to do?
The presentation rightly points out the problems with knowledge dump, and instead focuses on the business goal first, and then asks you to map out what the learner would need to be able to do to achieve that business goal. That’s the point I was making in my ‘objectives‘ post of the Broken ID series.
Cathy nicely elaborates on that point, going directly to practice that has them doing the task, as close as possible to the real task. Finally, she has you bring in the minimum information needed to allow them to do the task. This is really a great ‘least assistance‘ approach!
Now, it’s not talking about examples or models (though those could fit under the minimum information principle, above), nor introducing the topic, so I’d want to ensure that the learners are engaged into the learning experience up-front, and provide a model to guide their performance in the task. What this does, however, is give you a framework and set of steps that really focuses on the important elements and avoiding the typical approach that is knowledge-full and value-light. Recommended.
Felipe Jara says
While I am a truly follower of the “do” and the “practice” way as a mean to develop competences and not just inert knowledge, I have found that in some elearning formats it is very difficult to face / aboard this way: In fact, I have to develop an elearning programme (a train the trainer programme) for 10,000 trainers which has a specific requirement from the client: no tutors, just trainers interacting with softwares and e-elearning environment (auto-instrucciÃ³n). This requisite has to do with political issues related to the need of having a large volume of people (10,000 is the minimum of a universe of 50,000 possible learners across the country) and with budgetary restrictions (it is expected that tutors or moderators or a blended approach be more expensive)…
So, how I develop (or at least get closer!) competences (I mean: “DOs” and “practice”) with this restriction? I think I have two alternatives: either I reject the project (it is crisis time!) or aboard it in a very very expensive way with strong and sophisticated simulations and so on. So, and here is my reflection, not always we can afford or have the chance to develop practice or to “control” that they have been developed when we talk about elearning.
All the best from Chile (sorry for my spelling mistakes)
Felipe, I don’t see the focusing on ‘do’ and ‘practice’ as a barrier for asynchronous elearning, i.e. my post on practice. That is, you can contextualize and make a challenging ‘cognitive’ application even with a well-written multiple-choice question. I talk about this in my workshops, and in my book, as mini-scenarios.
It’s a setting (“you’re a trainer, facing a class of engineers”), a situation (“one of the attendees challenges you on your technical qualifications”), and choices (“you: a) acknowledge, b) point to the SME as the background, or c) ask what the issue is”). (Obviously, different feedback for each answer as they reflect different models.) It requires making the decision, even if you don’t have the window-dressing. (Note: here I’m assuming that this is one of the situations that a trainer might have difficulty with, but substitute your own trainer issues that need addressing.)
Sure, a full sophisticated simulation would minimize transfer, and give lots of practice. And even branching scenarios can be done with relatively low-level implementation (powerpoint, Captivate, or even html). And there are *lots* of ways to contextualize it, inexpensively, but first focus in on what it is that will make the difference in what trainers need to do, and then put them in a situation (even verbally conveyed) where they have to make that decision. And I’ll suggest that making better decisions of certain types is exactly what will make the needed difference.
Hope this helps! And your English is far better than my Spanish!
I’ve had the great fortune to casually interact with Cathy over the years. The action first model is something I strongly believe in. Doesn’t it make things far easier if you focus on activity first? I think so.
Many courses tend to have a flat structure, placing content on a conveyer belt to be revealed by a shiny next button.
By focusing on what the learner will need to do, you can also prioritize your time. If you are spending the same effort on all elements of the course — more than likely none of it will provide a high energy punch.
Here’s the way I approach it:
1) Break down the goal into an easily digestible 5 – 15 second narrative. I aim for groupings of 3’s or 5’s (marketing message rules). At this point I’m thinking from a marketing angle. If the student is imprinted with nothing else but X, Y, and Z – I have had ‘some’ impact. And without clarifying the goal / accomplishment, everythig else is a waste of time. This is the meaning framework. This may or may not carry through, but it provides me a starting point and some brief points for discussion with the SME / stakeholders. I usually spend 15 minutes to an hour on this. If it takes longer something else is wrong (ill defined goals, over complicated predecessors, etc..) and I know that we need to have more substantive talks or break into question / analysis mode until it’s easy to simplify the goals.
2) Move to the actions. If I know that the overall goal is XYZ and the tasks are A1 – Z1, then I’ll outline all of the activities I might want the learner to perform in support of the goal. These activities can’t be too complex or I’ve failed. This usually takes a bit of time. I’m not thinking of what I want the learner to know. I’m thinking:
* what tasks do I need to be able to do?
* what skills do I need to build to accomplish those tasks?
* what concepts do I need to abstract or represent in activities or engagers to support the skills?
I’ll outline a conceptual model for task performance for each type of task. I prioritize the design and development of these elements towards the top of the resource scale so I’m spending more resource energy on these elements than the rest of the lesson content. The conceptual model and individual design specs for each activity will evolve, but these are the basis for activity in the lesson / course. The strategies used for presenting concepts and knowledge bits end up synergizing with these hubs. If I want someone to read or reference I do that in an appropriate medium. I’ll also send someone out to do a real world activity if the audience analysis reveals that this is a viable option.
This diagram sort of represents how this works. Activity centric, learner controlled, optional guide path…
Do I want to burn up my budget working on the interactions? Nope. But I do want to spend more energy on the highlights than the conveyer belt content (which, most of the time, belongs in another medium – a medium that is more efficient, freeing up budget for adding quality to the highlights).
Dave Ferguson says
To me, one of the great benefits of a focus on outcomes like the one Cathy advocates is that it can greatly improve how you work with subject-matter experts and exemplary practitioners. They see that you’re trying to accomplish the same results, even if your approach differs from theirs.
A true expert can diagnose and decide better and faster than an amateur. However, experts tend to value detail, tend to enjoy the unusual and the complicated, and tend to believe that these things are what matters.
This is why subject-matter experts are prone to tell war stories and give a lot of background–not because they’re trying to bore people, but because they think it’s important to good performance.
Much of the time, it just ain’t. I’ve saved a post in which an instructional designer wrote, “There are several ways to save a configuration in a Cisco device.” He briefly lists them, then adds: “Although all four of the commands above will copy the running configuration file to the startup configuration file, only the last command is accepted as a correct response [meaning, on the exam].”
When three answers that do the job are rejected by “experts,” you know you’ve got too much expertise and not enough performance.
Steve, *great* concept diagram, love the structure and path. Also like the distribution across appropriate task. And the breakdown, but I’d still put the ‘what do they need to do’ first, before the narrative. Unless you’ve done that before your step 1.
Dave, yes, my focus on ‘decisions’ came from games (cf Sid Meier), and I do find it helpful with SMEs. They don’t have access to their own expertise, so war stories and knowledge dumps are their resorts, and we need to break it out. Takes more responsibility on the part of the designer, however.