What do IDs do to REDUCE learning effectiveness?
It is said that the brain cannot tell the difference between something that is real and something that is vividly imagined.
So do we always take advantage of this fact when we are creating eLearning courses?
Using my eLearning weapon of choice, Articulate Storyline, “lifelike business scenarios” are very simple to build.
We could have two “people” images in (for example) an HR situation or situations, and the learner makes attempts through a series of questions to go down the correct route, learning about her/his mistakes and successes of judgement as the story unfolds. Storyline offers a massive set of posed photographic characters to facilitate this.
Something that has always niggled me is that the “story” still takes place “on the screen”. Good enough for “eLearning” perhaps – but is this enough to take the learner into the realms of imagination, the closest thing to “real” that the brain can get?
Granted, learners may read or even sub-vocalise (mutter the words quickly and almost silently to themselves…) if there is not voiceover. If there is a voiceover, they may read and hear the words on the screen that one character is saying, perhaps even listen intently. But is this enough? What could we do to bring this all closer into imagination, to try and create that connection within the brain that makes the whole thing “real”?
One technique I have used on occasions is for the voiceover to say “Imagine yourself in this situation…no really….close your eyes now, listen to what I am saying, and imagine yourself in this situation.” OK – so it’s a little unusual, but so what? What is wrong in having your learner close their eyes and listen to a scenario? After all – it is just a short story, and we often close our eyes and imagine when being read to as children. It is a very natural technique.
Another thing that I feel uncomfortable with is asking people to take part in a scenario where one of the visual/on-screen characters is meant to represent them, and in 99.9999% of cases it will not even be close. I love Articulate Storyline’s built-in photographic characters, however, perhaps using 2 of them in a 2-person “…you are one of the people” scenario is not the way to go?
Perhaps this puts up a barrier rather than assisting the reality, despite normal eLearning design techniques and convention?
If you are going to set up a scenario – could it actually be more real to use a silhouette or a “cut-out” representation of a person rather than an attempt to be “real” with a photo character or illustration? For this to make sense you need to ask some sort of “Choose your Character” question at the start, and then have an appropriate character silhouette appearing on the screen (which can be done easily with branching).
If we are going to use the “2-character visual scenario”, if we ask the learner to imagine “2 people” (neither of whom are the learner…), then surely we are saying “this is not 100% relevant to YOU”, which should be our aim?
Perhaps asking the learner to recite, aloud, what is in the speech-bubble that it being “said” by the on-screen character, would make it more real from the perspective of their brain?
I am no expert on this subject, but I’ve read enough that I am now intrigued enough to at least question received wisdom. I do not know how to appeal to the imagination and immerse the brain in the most optimum way, however, I think we should all consider, when we build courses, what tools we are using that are aimed at the “
I do not know how to appeal to the imagination best, but I think we should all consider, when we build courses, what tools we are using that are aimed at the “imagination muscles” rather than just assuming the course is “real” to them.
Perhaps even the best-intentioned Scenarios could include other more creative elements than those offered to us “out-of the-box”, in order to achieve the most effective learning.
In the online/eLearning community we often talk about “blended learning”, (more so in my experience than our classroom colleagues). When we talk about blended we talk about a mix of “PC-based” and “non-PC-based” – but how often do we ever seriously meld the two together?
I’m currently working on a first for me – my Articulate Storyline courses will form the basis of the activities that take place when the students on a classroom course “break out” into their groups.
eLearning becomes a talking, interactive, electronic workbook if you like.
There’s nothing “new” here – I’m still using the same Instructional Design principles, I just need to interface them with the classroom activities, each one linking to the other – a dialogue back and forth.
It’s still the same activities from the perspective of the classroom trainers/facilitators, just that at certain points, the teams being trained can flex their kinaesthetic muscles, make some scenario-based choices, and have group discussions based on the output from their choices.
Videos are presented in several formats; for example “video of a meeting”, and “video just showing speech bubbles from the various scenario players – and the people round the table have to act out the parts“. Branched scenarios which play out various endings depending on choices made by the group. All these help to bring the course alive in a way that static workbooks might not do.
Even the old “…please do not use this time for doing emails or texting, there is time set aside for that later” becomes more potent (IMHO) when delivered by a voice you are working “with” rather than a course Facilitator that is just wandering around.
All that really needs to change is my voiceover – because suddenly, I can talk TO them rather than AT them. I can feedback for incorrect choices based on “…less than 10 minutes ago in the workshop you saw that…” and so on.
I think there may be a real opportunity for online learning designers and classroom course builders to work together for mutual benefit, one that has not been truly examined and mined yet. Certainly not by me until now.
How many of us, both online and classroom-based could extend our business circle and business by selling this concept?
I was talking to an Instructional Designer recently who primarily develops classroom courses. The subject was the #tincanapi Tin Can API / Experience API, (depending on whether you are talking to Rustici or the US Department of Defence).
I could very soon see her eyes glazing over as she became disinterested – it was not because I was boring, but rather “…because I leave all those techy subjects to you online people – it’s not really what I do…”
I feel that she has completely and utterly missed the point and purpose of Tin Can API.
Why do so many “classroom-focused” people in our industry ignore “IT/technical” subjects, while for us #elearning people the classroom is often a completely accepted pre-cursor or extension of what we do, whilst we also appreciate classroom techniques?
Tin Can API will allow both classroom and online trainers to do the thing we often fail at – capture the learning and experience that goes on outside our respective courses, (often representing 80% while our “formalised” courses represent the 20%).
A classroom coaching course could so easily be followed up by recording a Tin Cap API statement recording “I coached person X in subject Y” into the LRS. A validation of the success of the classroom teaching. How many so called soft-skills trainers have failed to record the actual activity that follows on from the x-day classroom session?
“I presented to X on subject Y” – WOW! Real follow-up after a classroom-based Presentation Skills session. A validation that I did was my boss asked me to do – because the course, and presenting were in my Annual Objectives.
“I sold Product X at margin Z” – real (measurable) follow-up after an online OR classroom sales training event. Successful skills transfer, and a bit of inter-salesperson competition as well! Build a “sales community of competition” through Tin Can API reports as well as sales reports. How about “I taught newbie X how to sell like me” from a sales rainmaker?
I believe that anyone and everyone that is in the “training” industry should ignore Tin Can at their peril. It is going to allow both the classroom and online training communities to do things properly. We have not even scratched the surface in terms of finding ways to apply it yet.
Some people in “training” are afraid of “technology”, well…maybe they need to switch on. My own feeling is that many of them are scared that they will get found out – found out that they do not actually care about the business follow-up and impact of what they sell. Tin Can will open up a world where we can measure what actually HAPPENS, not just tell people how it should happen. We all suddenly become accountable though behavioural statements recorded on the LRS.
This can only be a great thing for our industry.
A few days ago I listened to the annual Top 300 countdown on UK radio station Classic FM.
At numbers 5 and 3 were compilations of music that seem to have excited and repulsed Classic FM listeners in equal measure.What was the source of this ire?
These two compilations were music from Video Games.
For some, (and you can find all the discussions here) the concept that video games can be used as the medium to disseminate beautiful haunting vocal and orchestral pieces is just a step too far. For others, it is a breath of fresh air and exposure for a world too often previously hidden from view on “classical music” programmes.
It seems to me that this is another example of people failing to change, and being scared of change. If, for example, the pieces had been introduced to the mainstream listener audience as recently discovered scores by the relatively unknown 19th Century German composer Otto van Spottlebottle….then you can almost see the cooing and fawning from those to whom “classical music” means a (snobbish?) world of expensive seats and suits.
Change is the way that, in commerce, you keep ahead. Many Classic FM voters, it seems, were completely unprepared for the fact that their neat apple-cart of old favourites would be upset by a massive population of games-players; games players that actually shared their passion for the music which forms the envelope around their gaming passion.
Presumably the people who cannot accept this form of music as “real” are the same as those wanting more “…young people” to get interested in classical music, and for classical music to develop? Surely we are not going to carry on just listening to Brahms, Mozart and Beethoven for ever?
Of course this music is “classical music”, and it has a right to sit at the table alongside Beethoven and Rachmaninov, (although I do still fail to understand the enduring popularity of Vaughan Williams’ “The Lark Ascending”).
For 15+ years I’ve heard the same debates in the world of “eLearning” – after all…it’s not “real” training, is it?
People fail to focus on the deliverable – the end result, and become almost solely focused on the delivery mechanism. I got started in the “online training business” because someone categorically told me that presentation skills could not be learned online – they HAD to be done is a classroom.
Learning has the same issues to consider. Define the measurable outcomes you need and then focus on the correct design in the correct delivery mechanism – which may be classroom or online, there are a multitude of options, growing daily.
The Tin Can API will very soon enter mainstream learning technology, and (I believe) revolutionise the way that we aggregate learning experiences. The recent Rustici webinar I have attended have left me energised about how we may soon actually lose the term “online learning”, because classroom, online, social, books, experiential etc. will all come under the SAME umbrella – LEARNING. What someone learns will be more important than HOW they attain that knowledge – they may (for example) take online learning but never touch the corporate LMS.
It will be great to focus again on the output, rather than the mechanism taken to get there, and the role of an instructional designer can once again focus on the thing that is important rather than just focusing on the tool used to get there.
Right – I’m off to play “Final Fantasy” accompanied by some WONDERFUL classical music soundtacks.
Yesterday I got one of those all too rare chances to sell a vision, and be a bit theatrical while doing it too!
An existing client is at the stage where they have some powerful motivations for, and the will, to build a centralised, coherent training strategy involving multiple learning techniques, including online techniques. I was invited to share, explain and sell that vision to one of the influential teams made up of staff from around the world.
I got the chance to demonstrate just how powerful visuals, and visualisation can be to an Instructional Designer in a client “sales” setting based around Articulate Storyline.
I started with “the story” – 25 slides – all images, (OK – so I ended up with 1 Summary slide full of bullets just to make the point about commonplace eLearning!). I told the story of eLearning from our learners perspective, i.e how it should not be done. I showed options, I showed them “…what good looks like…”, and some models to get there. The “no-words on slides” strategy was commented on by team members. Good visuals add power to your message. We all know this – but make it a reality in your face-to-face meetings as well as the courses you build.
I then showed some examples of demonstrations I have built in Articulate in Storyline. OK – so my “Shall I eat the bacon?” example was amusing – but the REAL power came when I asked them to IMAGINE… “Imagine that was a scenario where instead of making decisions about whether you should eat bacon or not the scenario is all about whether a salesperson should put a specific clause in a contract or not…”
Suddenly – something fun and fanciful, very “non-corporate” became REAL - they could see what possibilities existed.
We all know my “Decoder for Male Dancefloor Expressions” has nothing to do with reality (?)– however then I asked them to imagine images of their corporate products instead, and online “reference manual” for salespeople, deployed on iPad for ease of access at the customer premises. Lightbulbs came one…and then something wonderful happened…they started saying “Or…we could do this…….”.
Features and functionality are powerful, but vision, imagination, dreaming and taking away “business pain” are sometimes so much more powerful, and a lot more fun for the audience too!
Take away pain, and portray an imaginary but completely achievable dream-world where your clients benefit, and you write invoices. Be a dream-maker. Be an anaesthetist. Be an Instructional Designer.
Storyboarding (eLearning) courses always generates a number of opinions!
Yesterday, I listened to an interview with Frank Cottrell Boyce, the writer who worked on the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony.
What was their solution? Simple – a clothes line across a room, lots of pegs, and lots of paper. This formed a brilliantly simple yet effective visual reminder of the “story”. They looked for where the ideas or gaps were missing, then clipped answers or suggestions onto the appropriate part of the line.
If you are looking for a way to make this process more visual with your client, and certainly more interactive/theatrical – perhaps this could be a great way to perform this important part of your Articulate Storyline, (or other authoring tool) projects.
Thanks for reading.
I just read a blog written by Mike Taylor on behalf of OpenSesame.com.
He makes the following observation:
“…For example, as parents, we have found that instead of punishing our son for not eating his broccoli, he reacts much better when we tell him that want him to learn how to be healthy. Although he’s not likely to be begging for them anytime soon, he is starting to get it and we’ve made a lot of progress in the vegetable department. Maybe it is the optimist in me, and seeking these “learning moments” is my way of looking for the silver lining…”
With my daughter, we just found that the way to get her to like vegetables, (and she adores most of them…), was just to get her used to them from the word-go. She’s never questioned that they should not be liked.
It’s a bit like that when working with a new client, whether you build using Articulate Storyline (as I do), or any other eLearning content-building tool.
It seems that many people, especially in the freelance Instructional Design world try and placate initial requests on the basis of winning a contract, even if they contain unrealistic demands or beliefs from the client. Even if you cannot get a client to face upto the realities of online learning, you should as an ID explain how it should be built. It makes acceptance of GREAT learning techniques easier in the long run. Also, if you create a wonderful product that works for the business, it increases the chance that others in the organisation will be on the phone to you to request THEIR own 15-minutes of fame from association with one of your courses.
When I am starting work with a new client, I always try and be completely up-front and blunt with them. If I feel they are trying to “do” eLearning to cut costs, or “…because everyone is using iPads nowadays…” etc. I will tell them the realities of cost movement rather then (necessarily) cost-reduction, and explain some of the myths and practicalities of mobile learning etc. I feel that it’s easier to get a great relationship with your client based on honesty and professional respect from the start. They may be the expert on their subject in their industry, but you are a cross-functional expert – in learning techniques.
Start using that knowledge from the get-go. Now – who’s for broccoli?