Want to dig a bit deeper into improving design processes. Here, I look at tools, asking IDs to ‘support thyself’.
As usual, the transcript:
One of the things I do is help organizations improve their design processes. Last week, I talked about when to team up in the process of learning design. Another component of good design, besides knowing when and how to draw in more minds, is baking learning science into your processes. That’s where tools help. I expect that most orgs do have process support, but…baking in learning science seems not to be there. So here I’m exhorting IDs to ‘Support Thyself’.
As I discuss in my forthcoming book, there are nuances to each of the elements of learning design (as I also talked about for Learnnovators). That includes meaningful practice, useful models, motivating intros, and more. The question is how to help ensure that as you develop them, you make sure to address all the elements.
One approach, of course, is to use checklists. Atul Gawande has made the case for checklists in his The Checklist Manifesto. In this great book, he talks about his own inspiring efforts in the context of other high-risk/high-value endeavors such as flight and construction. There are clear benefits.
The point is that checklists externalize the important elements, supporting us in not forgetting them. It’s easy when you do yet another task, to think you’ve completed a component because you’ve done it so many times before. Yet this can lead to errors. So having an external framework is useful. That’s part of the rationale behind the Serious eLearning Manifesto!
I had originally been thinking about templates, and that’s another way. And here, I’m not talking about tarted-up quiz show templates. Instead, I mean a tool that leaves stubs for the important things that should be included. In examples, for instance, you could leave a placeholder for referencing the model, and for the underlying thinking. Really, these are checklists in another format. All in all, these are ways that you can Support Thyself!
What you don’t want to do is make it too constraining. You want to create a minimum floor of quality, without enforcing a ceiling. At least other than the ones your own schedule and budget will import. But you want to be creative while also maintaining effectiveness.
And you can do this in your authoring tool. Just as you may have a template you reuse to maintain look and feel, you can have placeholders for the elements. You can also provide guidance for the elements, in a variety of ways.
There are lots of forms of performance support. And, just as we should be using them to assist our performers (even doing backwards design to design the tools first then any learning), we should be using them to overcome our own cognitive limitations. Our cognitive architecture is amazing, but it’s prone to all sorts of limitations (there’s no perfect answer). We can suffer from functional fixedness, set effects, confirmation bias, and more.
I’ll admit that I created an ID checklist. The only problem was it had 178 elements, which might be unwieldy (though it did go through the whole process). But you should make sure that whatever tools you do have cover the necessary elements you need. I did create a more reasonable one to accompany my ‘Make it Meaningful’ initiative (coming soon to a theater or drive-in near you).
Our brains have limitations that influence our ability to design. Fortunately, we can use technology as support to minimize the impact of those limitations and maximize the contributions of our outcomes. And we should. Thus, my encouragement for IDs to Support Thyself!