I’m pleased to say that my article on 7 Steps to Better eLearning is now out in eLearning Mag. Have a look and let me know what you think!
Once again, it’s the Learning Circuit’s BIG Question, which is really 3 questions:
- What will you remember most about 2006?
- What are the biggest challenges for you/us as head into 2007?
- What are your predictions for 2007?
So, what will I remember most about 2006? Probably that it was the Year of the Game. Gaming became mainstream (we moved it out of the ’emerging’ track at TechKnowledge, for example). Whether called Serious Games, Simulations, Scenarios, or whatever, it’s definitely crossed the chasm. That’s not to say it’s ubiquitous, or even well done yet, but it’s definitely playing a role in many more organizations, and it’s on more people’s radar.
It’s also been a year of more strategic use of eLearning. The progression on my models page is one way I’ve been thinking about it (feedback welcome), but increasingly I’m seeing folks interested in road maps to address organizational performance by leveraging their IT investment in more intelligent ways, not just purchasing an LMS and acquiring content to meet training needs.
The biggest challenges will be executing successfully to take eLearning to the “next level”, whether it’s tactics like improving the instructional design or adding eCommunity to strategies about changing the customer role. It’s too easy to take half-baked approaches: have one workshop run, or engage one improvement initiative without applying the organizational change implementation thoughts that accompany these initiatives.
It’s also important to focus on the goals, not the tools. Getting the design right is the hard part, not figuring out what technology implementation can render the design.
My predictions for 2007 are first that mobile learning will cross the chasm like Games have. It’s on the cusp, and I’m hearing lots of different buzz going around. The capabilities are pretty mature now, and the integration is now possible, so that we have a whole new set of affordances or capabilities that provide some real performance opportunities.
I also think that the hype will go off podcasts and blog and wikis as phenomena, and they’ll take their rightful place as power tools in our suite of resources. This is not to diminish them in the least, they’re valuable tools at the higher level for collaboration and communication, but we’ll start looking at the larger picture, about why we need collaboration and communication and start developing systemic approaches, not experimenting with them as one-offs.
We’ll see greater awareness of the necessity of what I call performance ecosystems and Jay Cross has termed ‘Learnscapes’ (a nice term, I may have to adopt it). We’ll start seeing a recognition that individuals need a unified and richly populated playground with all sorts of resources and ways to extend our understanding and our capabilities.
And I fervently hope we’ll begin to recognize that we can’t assume that if we build it, they will learn, but we have to develop a learning culture, that we need to develop our learners’ ability to learn, that we have to recognize, take responsibility for, and foster meta-learning (learning to learn).
While this is not my last message of the year I hope, this is a great opportunity to thank everyone for a very interesting year, and send my best wishes that the coming year be the best yet for all of us.
Jimmy Atkinson passed on this list of 77 Ways to Learn Faster, Deeper, & Better. Maybe he knows I’m keen on meta-learning, or learning to learn, and there are some nuggets in here. No one’s suggesting, I’m sure, that you should go for all of them, but you might want to graze the list and incorporate one or two into your existing approaches.
Being a better learner is one of the key differentiators, going forward (it’s part of my curriculum, which I discussed previously). I admit I haven’t scrutinized the list in fullness, though I might add “engage yourself”, that is, finding your own ways to make the content meaningful if the instructor hasn’t, such as creating examples where it would be important to you.
Still, having more guides to becoming a better learner is a ‘good thing’ (see also Marcia Connor’s Learn More Now). Learn on!
Sorry, it’s been a whirl of activity, this past week and more. Most of it, interestingly, circling around something I was working on several years ago, content models. The notion is being more granular in content specification, separating out, both in content development and in representation through tagging,the different components of learning:
This gives us flexibility in packaging them up in different ways to serve different needs.
I once defined the right size of a learning object as the smallest unit you’d give to one learner versus another (implying if you were serving as a wise and knowledgeable tutor). However, we’re not there yet with the ability to sufficiently tag domain/topic role down to the level of a table or a graphic across all domains, which is what you’d need to build a really intelligent but mass-market tutoring system, but we certainly can make approximations.
Yes, I do have complaints from authors who feel it’s constraining, but when we pay closer attention to the elements (and good principles along with, see the Seven Steps to Improved Instructional Design white paper, warning: PDF; soon to come out in a ‘readers digest condensed’ version via Lisa Neal’s eLearningMag) we get more flexibility and better learning outcomes. And it’s not that hard to shift, it’s some initial extra overhead, not a whole new writing process.
As you move from publishing monolithic works to delivering Wayne Hodgin’s “right stuff” (the right information, to the right person, at the right time, in the right place…etc), and increasingly want authors who don’t have instructional design expertise but important knowledge to develop learning, you’ll need this structure. I’m finally seeing some real market movements in these directions, and I look forward to more innovations.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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…
Too much hard work has kept me from blogging recently, but there’s a lesson here. David Batstone’s Right Reality newsletter the WAG, a great source of inspiration, pointed me to a report that says that hard work, not natural talent, is the key to success.
While people have often suggested it’s both, the research suggests that there’s no such thing as a natural talent for a specific thing. Moreover, the fact that some people continue on to greatness in any particular thing is due to ‘deliberate practice’: “activity that’s explicitly intended to improve performance”.
I think there’re two parts to that. One is finding or knowing the right thing to do, and the second is maintaining persistence through an increasing level of difficulty. Neither is a given. Maybe the natural talent is to figure out what you want to do and be willing to pursue it. The necessary adjunct is arranging the necessary support.
Really, that’s what I think we should be doing with good learning game design, using the story and setting the level of challenge to maintain motivation, and then ensuring that the embedded decisions are the necessary skills we want to develop.
There’s more, properly representing the concept, providing useful models of applying the concept to the context, supporting reflection to cement and extend the learning, but not only is this great news for anyone who has a passion, it’s also a boost for the value of good learning design.