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Tag Archives: instructional design

The PowerPoint Coma, Dilbert, and Trainings.

Three days ago, on April 5th 2016, The Times of India ran a Dilbert strip about the PowerPoint Coma. About a week ago, on April 4th, I was in a meeting with a senior training manager, discussing an upcoming program for their organization, attempting to outline the focus areas. The training program would address senior and mid-level managers of the organization, who are often called upon to share their domain-expertise with others. “One of the areas,” said the gentleman, “is PowerPoint. They walk in with a PowerPoint presentation, dim the lights, and for the next hour, everyone dozes off! They can’t do away with the PowerPoint presentation, because it keeps their content grounded and ensures that they stay within the scope.”

Two days later, I saw the Dilbert strip, and the term “PowerPoint Coma” stayed with me. I’m not a fan of PowerPoint, but that doesn’t make me blind to its advantages. I know it has many, especially in the training scenario of today, where the rapidly reducing half-life of knowledge makes its almost mandatory that the trainers have a cue-sheet to keep them on track. How then, do we handle this double-edged sword? How do we use the strengths of PowerPoint without falling prey to its weaknesses?

Read “PowerPoint Coma – Causes, Effects, Prevention, and Dilbert,” for a rapid-fire round of quick tips.

 

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Brave New World by Aldous Huxley – Is it just Around the Corner?

It isn’t everyday that you read a book that makes you feel grateful for not being born sooner or later, but exactly when you were born. It is only once in a long while that you come across a story that makes you look for that inflection point in the history of humanity, which made the world become what it is today.

This isn’t a review that I am posting today. It isn’t even a suggestion or a recommendation that you read this book. It is a short Thank-You-Note to Aldous Huxley who penned “Brave New World”, and made me feel grateful for being what I am and for what I have been given – the freedom of choice. I don’t want to discuss the extent of this freedom; I don’t want to flick out a tape to measure it; I just want to experience it.

Huxley had written this novel in 1931 – a time when Behaviorism had matured, its spread aided by the industry; and a time when scientific advances were being announced every day.

Conceptual Summary of Brave New World

Let me quickly summarize the concept of “Brave New World” for you.

The world has “evolved” (degenerated?) where humans are mass-produced under controlled conditions, using the Bokanovsky process. The humans come in different varieties or castes, each variety suited to accomplish the task that it would be required to perform. Thus the humans range from Alphas (the highest caste) to the Epsilons who are nothing better than zombies. The production as well as the education of humans is the responsibility of the State. Sex for procreation is a taboo, people are expected to spend all their free time in the company of others, and ideas of individuality are considered dangerous.

Ivan Pavlov, Sigmund Freud, and Henry Ford have become icons in this world of the future. The calendar begins with the year of Ford’s birth (the story is set in AF 632 or about 530 years from now.)

Education of all the castes is carried out partly while they are asleep (by making them listen to numerous repetitions of such statements that define the desired behavior) and also makes tremendous use of behaviorist principles (repetition, reward, and punishment.)

The Wake-up Call

The goal of the story is to contrast the life-style and philosophy of the Reservations (places that refused to change) and the world – and it is this contrast that wakes you up. You find yourself wishing that the world had taken a midway approach, and then you realize that you sub-consciously begin to see yourself in both the worlds, wondering how “A Brave New World” is a very real possibility – and how you need not wait 500 years for it to happen.

Returning to my ruminations…

 

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Walking the Tightrope between Structure & Flexibility – from Design to Implementation

In my previous post, I raised a question that was inspired by an IDCWC Online Course Participant. The question was, “Is Design an Inhibitor?

I received a detailed thought-provoking response to that question from Tricia Pottratz. You can visit her new but promising blog “Tricia’s Teacher Toolbox” here. Thank you, Tricia.

Here are Tricia’s thoughts.

Having designed many classes myself, I understand where you are coming from.  Curriculum seems to take on a life of its own.  Once written, it becomes what the instructor deems it to be.  I think a big part of that comes from two sources: who you are designing for and what your objectives are.  I work for a multi-million dollar for-profit corporation with campuses all across the United States.  Before our small campus was purchased, instructors had the academic freedom to modify curriculum to meet their needs while still teaching to the objectives. The key was in keeping the objectives simple and few.

Since the buyout, the curriculum has evolved.  The first revision was similar to the original, but the coming revision is vastly different.  Sadly, the objectives are many and room for changes is few.  The idea is to create uniformity across the company; however the result is that the company’s curriculum does not leave much room for interpretation or regional flavor.

The solution depends on the parameters.  If you have any flexibility or say in the curriculum, I would suggest creating simple objectives, which leave the instructor the room for interpretation.  A really good article at http://itdl.org/journal/sep_05/article03.htm suggests that to be effective at brain-based learning, instructors should incorporate 4 basic things: memory and retrieval, learning styles, attention, and emotion (Clemons, 2005).  I find that in order to accomplish those goals it is important to offer a variety of media and classroom activities that vary in size and scope.

The other two-edged sword in education is the rubric.  As an instructor and as a student, I love the fact that it sets specific parameters.  The dilemma is still the same: the more specific the objectives, the less creative the project.  I have found that the only way to overcome this is to allow for students to develop the rubrics themselves.  After all, if you give a template, they will only follow the template.  This line of thinking also works in the classroom: if the students design the projects (based on the learning objectives) they become more emotionally involved and willing to go further with the project than I would have ever expected.

A friend of mine also suggested going with a tiered learning system. Her argument is that it gives options for the students while still ensuring the quality of the project is within the set parameters.  My problem with tiered learning systems is that it is not always feasible and can create conflict in the classroom.  I am more for offering options with a similar difficulty level instead of varying the levels.  In that way the “slower” student does not feel like they are being singled out and the “quick learner” is not feeling like it is unfair in the classroom.

Have you ever had any luck with tiered learning in the classroom?  If so, I would love to hear about it.

Sincerely,

Tricia Pottratz, BS, LMP

I attempted to address Tricia’s question by sketching a paradigm with two basic assumptions. 1. The learners are all adult learners. 2. The learners constitute a heterogeneous group, especially in terms of their existing skills and/or their ability to learn.

I believe that the answer has to be chiseled out from the goal of a training program. What is it that you want to achieve for your group? Notice that I don’t speak of what the learners want to achieve, but what “you, a representative of the learning provider” wish to achieve.

Let me illustrate through three simple examples:

1. You wish to orient the learners towards a new corporate policy.
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This is a lower level goal of awareness generation. You might want to use a tiered system here. You can create your learning groups on the basis of individual motivation and learning ability. At least everyone would take away something. As you won’t be grading their performance in this sort of program, you will possibly see a lot of happy faces at the end of your training.

2. You wish to train the learners on a specific role-based skill so that they can do their job proficiently.
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I don’t think that a tiered system will help you achieve you goal in this case. You need everyone to reach approximately the same level in the new skill. Eventually everyone might not reach the desired level, but then you’d like to see the distribution of marks and ensure that only those who reach the required level of competency are certified to do the job.

However if your program is flexible enough to accommodate the slow learners by allowing them additional practice/time, tiered learning may work. (We should also review the impact of this on learner motivation and individual egos.)

3. You wish to train the learners for a skill that demands accuracy and precision (for instance: a career in medicine?)
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Attempt to take all the learners to the same level, and use the rubrics wisely to grade the post-training skills. Sometimes the assessments have to be done against very specific objectives. I think that creativity is related more to the content-type than to the specificity of the objectives – especially when you create the learning and reinforcement activities.

I should also mention that I completely agree with Tricia’s belief that allowing the learners to participate in the creation of the assessment rubrics is a double-edged sword. I think it could work well with a group of mature and motivated participants, but not otherwise.

I know that heterogeneous groups are a reality and this reality contradicts the dream that every trainer and instructional designer has, which is 100% learning effectiveness.

A Note for the regular readers, who might’ve been wondering why my previous two posts have been replete with ATDs:  I guess my excuses are the same as the ones given by everyone else – I was too tired and a little ill, and then I was busy trying to meet the deadlines for my deliverables and delivering on my promises – but then, excuses don’t help, do they? So, I spent some time going through whatever I had written and removed the ATDs …thanks to a cup of coffee and the zoom-in capability of my new laptop. I prefer not to get my stuff edited (for better or for worse, this is how I write,) so bear with me…and ignore the bad to focus on the good 🙂

 

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Re-introducing Sloth and Froth!

I am not sure if I’ve ever formally introduced you to Sloth and Froth. They appear in my posts off and on. In other words, they’ve been freelancing – but now I intend to offer them a permanent position here. Thus, it becomes all the more necessary that they are introduced to you, their real audience.

Meet Sloth.

He (yes, HE) is a personification of his name. He is lazy. He is someone who’d love to have a droid doing his work for him. Sloth hates to get up in the mornings, he abhors the idea of taking a bath (even of  brushing his teeth, but he won’t tell you that,) and his daily To-do list begins with the task of finding an unsuspecting mule who’d do his work for him.

Fortunately, Sloth is very intelligent. His huge body houses an equally huge IQ…and so he’s not a complete loser, but he is absolutely NOT charismatic…and he doesn’t care. He loves to complain, and he is of the opinion that the entire world has been paid to conspire against him.

Now meet Froth.

She (yes, SHE – what did you think?) is bubbly, quite like her name. She’s full of energy. She resembles a freshly uncorked bottle of Soda. She’s extremely energetic and you’d think that she’d never tire out – but she does, because she’s also a perfectionist. She is an extreme hardworker – to the extent that she burns every extra ounce of fat off her perfect body. Froth’s charismatic; she’s attractive, and she’s very lively.

Froth is a career woman. She wants  to do well in her career and she doesn’t want to do it by cutting corners (if you know what I mean.) She is always politically correct but at the same time  she’s also quite emotional. This makes her feel stressed at times.

Following are the posts in which Sloth and Froth have featured so far. I hope you like them, because you’ll be seeing a lot more of them on this blog:)

PS: Does this post smack of Reverse-Gender-Bias?

Froth says: This isn’t gender-bias, this is how things are. Women are blah…blah…and men are blaher…bhaher!
Sloth says: Who cares? Pass me the mustard!

 

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While I am away…Reflect on these!

Dear visitors,

I’ll be back to blogging next week (this week I am conducting an Instructional Design Training Program). If you happen to stop by, reflect on the following learning quotes and wonder how intuitive Instructional Design can be:)

Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn. – C.S. Lewis

Relevant Instructional Design Principle / Concept:
Dale’s Cone

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Much learning does not teach understanding. – Heraclitus

Relevant Instructional Design Principle / Concept:
Bloom’s Taxonomy – Levels 1 and 2

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That one is learned who has reduced his learning to practice. – A Proverb

Relevant Instructional Design Principle / Concept:
Bloom’s Taxonomy / Knowles’ Andragogy

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I don’t think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday. – Abraham Lincoln

Relevant Instructional Design Principle / Concept:
Schema Theory

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Source for the Quotes:

http://www.inspirationalquotes4u.com

See you soon:)

– Shafali.

 

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Pros and Cons of Rapid e-Learning

Have you been blinded by the glare of Rapid eLearning Products yet?

  • Yes
  • No

What’s your answer?

I know that it’s difficult to answer this question objectively.  Don’t worry – let’s begin by first looking at some of its obvious advantages.

Advantages of Rapid e-Learning:

Rapid e-learning has multiple advantages. Here are 3 important benefits of employing Rapid eLearning.

  1. It can be produced by an SME-ID (Subject Matter Expert and Instructional Designer) team, thus trimming the development costs.
  2. It can be quickly put together depending upon the need of the hour – and note that with the rapidly changing technologies, the learning needs are in a flux.
  3. It can lead to standardization of eLearning content quality.

Rapid eLearning has the concept of the shrinking half-life of knowledge at its core – and it does help an organization benefit in the above three ways. Unfortunately, the obvious advantages of rapid e learning have led to its being employed for all kinds of content and all types of audiences.

Such indiscriminate use of rapid elearning tools, leads to certain disadvantages in the long-run.

Disadvantages of Rapid e-Learning:

Here are three serious issues with the use of Rapid eLearning.

  1. The content begins to look stale after a few lessons, and loses the learner’s attention.
  2. The best-possible instructional strategy is sidelined and the next possible one is applied! Thus, there’s a reduction in the learning effectiveness.
  3. The overall loss of learning effectiveness kills the learner’s appetite for eLearning…because the learner doesn’t know that all eLearning isn’t rapid elearning.

It doesn’t matter how many interactivity templates a rapid eLearning product offers to you…and how different they look on the surface…internally they still are “templates”. I agree that there is content with little or no longevity, and that such content can use rapid eLearning to avoid the loss of precious time – but I don’t see how non-technical high-longevity content or its learners can benefit from rapid eLearning.

Using rapid eLearning tools all the time could be like eating burgers three times a day for the rest of your life. It’s fast to cook, easy to order – and it saves a lot of time…but you can’t eat it all the time…not if you want to live!

 

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Using Games in eLearning – Part II – How are Games Different from other Learning Activities.

Why People Play Games?

Simply put, most people play games because they want to satisfy their esteem needs. The first three needs in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (the physiological needs, the safety needs, and the family & belongingness needs) are known as the deficiency needs, which prompt us to fulfill them through their deficiency.

However, everyone who has his or her deficiency needs fulfilled, experiences the need for esteem. We all wish to be famous, or victorious, or rich, or brilliant…essentially better than our neighbors (real or virtual) in some or the other way.  We play games because games help us to vicariously fulfill our esteem needs.

Another reason for playing games is physical. Our brains have a neurotransmitter called Dopamine. When our system is flushed with Dopamine, we feel energetic and excited. In other words, Dopamine helps us experience thrill and adventure – It gives us pleasure.

These two reasons combine and drive us towards playing games. Games enable us to vicariously experience fame, victory, affluence, respect, even thrill and adventure.

How are Learning Games Different from Other Learning Activities?

The main difference between learning games and other learning activities is that Games establish an emotional connection with the learner. The learner “feels” something (thrill, pleasure, esteem) when he or she plays a learning game. In other learning activities, the learner doesn’t “feel” but only “thinks.”

This feeling is what makes learning games different and more sought after than other sorts of learning activities. Recently, one of our online course participants spoke of how she was drawn into a particular learning interaction because it was a “game”. She had a lot of fun trying to get a term to land in the right place, and without even realizing that she was learning, by the time the game ended, she had learned.

Thus, in a learning game, the conscious experience for the learner remains the game, which learning makes its way into the learner’s mind silently, almost effortlessly. The learner “enjoys” the game and its corresponding rewards and experiences the corresponding emotions. Thus, the learner’s attention is fastened on to the game while the learning is conveniently transferred to the learner’s mind. This isn’t possible in any other kind of learning experience.

The Psychology Behind Games” is an excellent read for those who want to get into the mind of the gamer.

 

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