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The Risks of KISSing in courses

November 12, 2010 5 comments

I recently got myself involved in a bit of a debate over a website – basically I was encouraging use of the “KISS” (Keep it short and simple) concept in design, whereas my worthy adversary stated that KISS did nothing to stimulate his cognitive juices?

This has got me thinking…, (despite it being one of the “rules” of learning and communication design…), perhaps KISS risks alienating some of our users. Perhaps some people WANT THE OPTION of information that is presented in a complex way?

It’s not always possible to develop different courses for different levels of interest – sometimes only one course can be built.

Should we always try and present information in a simple way? How should we deal with “levels” of complication? Should we offer a Pick-and-Mix course, where differing levels of complexity are consumed depending on your appetite?

I was trying to come up with a clever acronym, such as “FRENCH KISS”, but failed dismally, so here are a few thoughts on our audience, and how Articulate can be used to address these issues, (if they actually exist).

There are two dimensions of thought needed, the audience and the ways we can present different levels of information.

The Audience …

1> Different Strokes for Different Folks. Some people only want high-level, some want to explore and deep-dive. Some want both options, and to be fluid about the way they consume. We can design our courses to meet all these requirements, or we can design it the way we want it, using best Instructional Design principles.

2> Internal vs. External. SMEs and customer development teams will have their angle, they may think they know best what the audience wants. I suspect in-house development teams may be able to solve these issues better than 3rd party contractors. Many of us get told what we must produce, sometimes there is very little room to negotiate what content is in or out.

3> What is the audience make-up? Very often, we do not know the mix of the audience – the larger the potential audience, the more difficult the problem gets, more people could complain.

So – do we need to always “make complicated information easy”?

Some information will be seen by a varied audience, some of who will find it complicated, some will find it easy. In this case we need layering strategies. Some information will be complicated by design – and seen by a more cerebral – here perhaps no “layering” is needed

Presenting the Data

How do we make complex info simple using MS-PowerPoint and Articulate?

1> The Circle Interaction in Engage is my interaction of choice – specifically for this reason, and because it visually supports the solving of this problem. You start with “Core” material, and can gradually guide people up and around layers of complexity.

2> The Recap. Recapping material, perhaps using an FAQ interaction is a great way to provide a comma in training, almost like the “OK – does everyone understand so far?” mechanism of classroom training

3> Optional attachments. Recently I had a course that had some information which the SME thought was necessary, yet the average consumer would have been ambivalent about. So, at the appropriate point I used the “Pause Slide” functionality, explained there was a .pdf Attachment, and gave them an option to have a look if they wanted. If not, they could click the flashing “Play” button to move on. In this way, you offer everyone what they want and need, simplicity or complexity depending on choice and personal preference.

4> Branching. Branching functionality allows you to let people choose their own “route” through a course, based again on choice and preference. Branching is simple in Articulate, and brings real flexibility – so that you can branch for example based on Job Role. You explain that you are going to cover topic “x”, and that there are 3 different levels of complexity. “Click on Your Job Role” – and you are away.

5> Modules . Having a course in Modules can be a great way to address these issues – everyone has to complete Module 1, only pre-Sales technical consultants have to complete Module 2

6> Process Interaction. It has just occurred to me that you probably use the process interaction for this, using the numbers to represent levels of conceptual complexity, and allowing people to leave when they want to.

7> Quizmaker . Quizmaker could be used to assess people’s level of competence?  The score feedback could be used to suggest which modules or sections people consume.

Anyway, a few thoughts on how we should cope with differing levels of need, when you cannot just provide different courses. I’d appreciate your thoughts.

Why I love KISSing in my courses…

October 16, 2010 3 comments

I’ve just finished a day of Articulate eLearning creation for a client, from existing material.

After a  long day, I just really need to remind anyone reading of this:

In multinational training, the course language may not be the consumer’s native language. As this is the case, it’s critical to keep the words you use as simple as possible.

“swathes”  – try “amounts”

“accomplishing” – try “reaching”, “making this happen”, or “getting to”

“expended” – try “spent on”

“attain” – try “get”

“examples of such” – try  “examples of these”, or just “examples”

As instructional designers we have a duty to point this out to our clients, and create courses accordingly. Sometimes, passionate course designers get so carried away that we say too much, using terms that are far too “flowery” – and the message gets lost. In journalism, it’s called “burying the lead”.

Let’s treat our learners with respect – and respect that they have enough to do in terms of learning new conntent, they do not want to have to use “Pause” all the time while they check the dictionary.

KISS – Keep it simple, stupid (or keep it short and simple….).

The Magic of Instructional Design – Thought #1

September 6, 2010 1 comment

As well as an Instructional Designer, I am a close-up magician. I go to other people’s dinners, parties, charity balls and weddings. I am paid for having fun 😀
As an old joke goes – I said to my Dad, “Dad, when I grow up I want to be a magician”, and he replied, “Son, you can’t do both”.

I post regularly on magic forums, (yes, they do exist…), and have noticed many posts sharing similar traits and themes to those posted on eLearning/Instructional Design forums, some of which I would like to investigate over the next few posts. These are personal views and observations; I have not performed any statistical analysis to back them up!

Thought #1> Technical Prowess vs. Performance
Magicians love, (absolutely love – sometimes to the point of obsession), discussing sleights, and how to make them better. It is odd that we achieve mastery of sleights at the point where our audience can see nothing of our abilities! The performance side of magic seems to take a second place.

Many learning forum discussions seem to revolve around the technical side of things, “how to do stuff” rather than “how to present stuff”. The theoretical art of eLearning seems to be of interest to fewer people, posts of this type seem to generate less active interest on forums.

One lesson I have learned from both magic and eLearning/presentation sources, is that it’s not how complicated you make it; it’s how simply you present it. Great magical plots are simple to understand from the spectator’s perspective, (although there may be some complicated antics going on behind the scenes…)

In regards to knowledge transfer of any sort, it’s how simple you make it; how simply you show it, how simply you can explain it, how simply you illustrate it, how simply you tell it, and how simple you make the finding of supplemental information and data – no matter how complicated or technical the actual subject.

One great tool to assist you is the “readability statistics” available in Word; it checks how simple the content text is. If necessary – copy the text from PowerPoint to Word.

Remember the KISS principle, (Keep It Short and Simple), and learn how to utilize it in courses, (although ironically, this principle seems to be too simplistic for many people?)

Let me know if you agree, disagree, or need me to explain anything!

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