Posts Tagged 'Learning'

Building The Best Learning & Development Site Ever

WebDesignforLearning

If websites are like kitchens, then the best sites are the ones where you can get what you need quickly to get the job done. Perhaps none of the idealized websites as kitchens presented in the image above do that. While the third option is the most clean and organized it requires the user to know exactly where things are kept. If you are like many instructional designers that work in corporate environments, at one point in your career you have maintained or kept a learning and development website that is not unlike that messy and unorganized kitchen where you just can’t find what you’re looking for. Many of us have also had the pleasure of curating large bulky ‘link farms’ that require targeted searching (strategic use of “Ctrl + F”). But targeted searching implies that the user knows what to start looking for from the beginning. What about those users/learners who have no clue where to begin?

The technology used for content management for the web can allow us to break out of those old-fashioned static content sites and linky boondoggles. There are several platforms available that allow us to effectively design for our learner’s need to find their content, instead of forcing them to use a contrived or even ad hoc designed and confusing structure that resembles a Dr. Suess building.

Result of building architecture around immediate need vs. actual planning around user needs/goals

This is the result of building architecture around immediate need or whim vs. actual planning around user needs/goals

There are a number of viable options for creating a user-friendly yet flexible web architecture for your learning website that leverages resuable and taggable content (Drupa, Joomla, SharePoint). SharePoint when used as a content management system (CMS) can help provide a vehicle for learner-designed web experiences. However, there must be some administrative and programming customization to your SP platform and some careful planning of use based on well-thought out site usage goals.

In the end, good web and user interface design relies on meeting criteria/needs of the end user while fulfilling your business goals. I’ve built a set of questions for sussing out this criteria for my learner/end users.

BIG QUESTION 1: Does your site help the learner achieve his or her learning & development goals?

What are the learner’s primary goals? Develop their individual development plan? Seek out learning resources, courses or certificates in their fields? What fields?

BIG QUESTION 2: Does your site help meet your groups business goals? Or is the content on your learning and development site relevant to helping learners achieve these goals?

This is an age old set of questions that L & D groups who wish to stay relevant to the business should routinely and religiously be able to answer. What are your group’s business goals? How is your learning and development strategy supporting these goals? Can users access content for achieving these goals from the home page?

BIG QUESTION 3: Can your site’s content and views be personalized according to the various audiences and learners that visit it?

Is your content presented in units that can be tagged by user groups or topics, or types. Are you employing a flexible structure or set of different audience based taxonomies? Or are you using one set navigation structure? Have you identified the specific user groups or user personas who visit your site? If so, have you designed taxonomies based on their specific learning needs?

BIG QUESTION 4: Can your users personalize their use of your site content?

Can your learners apply their own personal tagging when it comes to organizing the site content per their needs? Can they organize or bookmark content that they like or find useful for easy reference afterwards? Can they contribute to the site’s helpfulness by rating individual pieces of content?

BIG QUESTION 5: Do you have a handle of your site content and structure?

Is there a tracking or monitoring system set in place that allows you to measure usage of the site content? Do you have an archiving system or regularly scheduled process in which you cull what is no longer relevant?

Do you have an approval workflow for enabling, multiple Subject Matter Experts to post new content for approval by a groups of site admin who can monitor and approve content based on set quality criteria? Is this workflow user friendly enough to allow less tech-savvy people to post content for review?

Can you iteratively design your content and structure to change to meet both your business and user needs? Per Jeffrey Zeldman’s 10 principles. Good designs and web platforms allow site admin and developers to ‘seamlessly’ and gracefully adapt web-content to their users changing needs (or just to make things look and work better ;))

IDEA IS TO PROVIDE BOTH STRUCTURED NAVIGATION AND PERSONALIZED USE OF CONTENT

If you can provide different ways to get to the content a learner needs without confusing them, then you’ve put together an effective site. I’ve created learning websites with multiple layers of navigation (easily accessible by users) that allow for the following layers. Each layer is presented as a navigation option at the top of the page linked from obvious labeling (“Group X Top Learning Focal Points,” “Most Popular Content,”  “Site Map”).

  • A layer based on business context – what are the group’s business learner goals. For instance if are business driven initiatives for learning (Improve strategic planning, drive use of cost-saving practices, build a more virtual savvy business team). Then the site can be built upon these goals
  • A layer based on usage and user driven popularity of content. This layer would feature relevance driven navigation based on what is most popular (visited or rated)
  • A layer that provides an index of all site content. Kept simple and put in alphabetical order. With proper use of tech, this layer can be built automatically from a good tagging system with set organizational criteria. This is the ‘kitchen sink’ layer

Example:

This presentation illustrate the process in which we designed a smaller topic focused website that used user personas to create multiple layers of navigation.

My top tools for learning & design

I tend to explore tools and software selectively, but after I’ve discovered their uses, I like to work the heck out of them.  Christy Tucker inspired me to write a post on my favorite tools for learning and instructional design. The only ones that are new to my repertoire from over five years ago are Twitter & Storyline.

To enrich my own learning

Twitter – through hashtags & twitterchats I still am able to remain connected to new or trending conversations in my field. I also get to explore and hear other’s voices on topics I care about or am interested in. Yes, sometimes it seems that the chats provide a meeting ground for those who want to collect followers, but they do allow me to connect with others on Twitter who have similar interests.  While engaging in a few MOOCs I found the Twitter backchat most helpful in getting help or being directed to help during the class. The backchat also provided a great channel for starting conversation about topics.

I began using Twitter five years ago and I still seem to be engaged with it.  I have wondered what my choice in primary social media says about me, and apparently according to this article: “long-time Twitter users are found to use the site for cognitive simulation by uncovering information w/o much socialization.”  Considering my introversion this makes sense. Though to be frank, I have been attracted to the character restriction on Twitter because it forces you to be concise and pointed in your use of language. I imagine masters of literary wit from the past loving Twitter. How would Mark Twain or Dorothy Parker used it to hone their sharp observances or comebacks?

Dorothy Parker

What would Dorothy tweet?

Diigo

I still use Diigo to curate and organize resources I find on the Internet, especially when I’m trying to make a case for something I’ve tried using it to share resources with others, but I really only have one or two peers who gets the use of this tool, so I haven’t used it collaboratively.

LinkedIn

I’ve started using linked in more, to learn about what my professional peers and connections are interested in and sharing. I have used the discussion and participated in groups in the past, but not as much today.

For Design/Creativity

Articulate Storyline is my primary tool for developing online courses. The software itself allows me to easily create paths and experiences for learning content. It allows Instructional Designers like myself to focus more on design and delivery rather than programming functionality. Thankfully there’s a highly active learning community out there supported by Articulate and its users.

PowerPoint, like my former colleague, Christy Tucker, I use it for storyboarding course content. To some extent I’ve used it to create simple designs for online course backgrounds. I’m not a graphic designer by trade, but I appreciate the ability to create simple yet somewhat aesthetically pleasing backgrounds and containers for my content without a lot of fuss. No it’s not perfect by design standards, but it will do in a pinch and I can easily import into Storyline.

Sample of course page designed in PowerPoint

Sample of course page designed in PowerPoint

For Creativity Outside of Work

SlideShare – Slideshare allows me to port and share my presentations to the public and also apply audio to them. I also use the entire site as a resource for design inspiration in creating and developing presentation and course content visuals. And While Prezi seemed at first to have a slicker design & delivery, I eventually got tired of using it because the constant zooming left me a little motion sick. I never bothered to figure out a way around it.

Using cell phones creatively

SALT Presentation: More that Just Talk – An Experience Using Cell Phones for Education

Presenter: Lin Muilenburg/ St. Mary’s College of Maryland

My Mind Map for the Presentation:

http://www.simpleapps.eu/mindmaps/ASraRQJ1tj2oqxc5eDJ9rD84wwJN/mindmap.pdf

I really enjoyed this presentation. The presenter kept us all engaged despite the fact that it was the last show of the day.

If you have a cellphone with a camera, then you can develop learning activity that engages your students.

These activities can take the form of polls, scavenger hunts, photo logs, fone conferences, etc. The applications are almost limitless. I’m thinking of creating a scavenger hunt using QR codes, various clues, and web games, maybe even geo cache to have a treasure hunt teambuilding at work.

A few days later…..

Back at a ‘real computer,’  I’m still obsessed with QR Codes. In the United States, the codes can be read mainly by cell phones. In Asia, most of the phones are outfitted with a QR Code reader. I was able to visit the QR Code Generator site and create one for my blog.

There are endless possibilities for using QR Codes to empower mobile learning with smart phones. For example, students could create their own “Museum Exhibitions” complete with an interactive media tour. They create their exhibits with labels that include QR codes that provide links to web pages, videos, mp3 files, etc. FUN STUFF!!!!  Students could even design their own ‘educational’ treasure or scavenger hunts for their teachers, parents, and fellow schoolmates.

Here’s a really well put together presentation on using QR Codes for Teaching I found on slideshare. The design process is meant for creating learning experiences for students on the University level, but I can see many of the principles being adapted for younger students as well.

http://www.slideshare.net/andyramsden/qr-codes-mlearn08-presentation

Salt talk – Game based learning

Game based learning

Tij nerukar – Tata Interactive Systems.

Takeaways
1) Model for success. Play – Practice – Proficiency.
2) Great example of a check clearing game.
3) for high risk tasks. Great for immediate feedbak

Mind map link:

http://www.simpleapps.eu/mindmaps/AYLhLA21hp0i_dimjfiEYsGWZn6U/mindmap.pdf

SALT keynote – Think Future

SALT – Speaker- Massood Zarrabian – OutStart

My main takeaways:

  1. DON’T SLOG ALONG OR FOLLOW –>CREATE FOR THE FUTURE. Develop a future concept. Ahead of the curve. Don’t get stuck developing only for older generations. Also it pays to be ahead because you may be rewarded with simply having the reputation for being a visionary or a leader in your field.  I would add that this is more than doubly true for any companies that develop content, media or tools for education/educators.  I’ve been working in education for sometime and it’s my observation that if any field is slow to adapt, it’s just education,schools, and universities. Just because the teachers in the schools aren’t using a tool or technology… doesn’t mean that you want to avoid it with a hot potato. Instead,  look for alternatives, tools or learning experiences that are ‘secure’ but on the cheap. Provide consultation services to school districts and schools that demonstrate or show them the best methods and practices. Engage the teacher and parent community and challenge them to come up with creative uses for the tools and technologies.  For those teachers who are trying to engage in using new methods and tools. I say,  Ignore those people who might chide you because of jealously or incurable skepticism – do in your heart what you feel is right. The results will speak for themselves.
  2. MODULAR IS IN. Develop modular content. Or content in modular fashion so that you can easily repurpose and or repackage it later.  This speaks to the power of integrating CMS’s with LMS’s. (Content management system = Drupal, LMS=Sakai or Moodle).  Don’t develop tools or systems that are hard to take apart or redesign. This can be difficult if you’re working with a vendor to develop your tools.

Think Future…

Mind Map for This Presentation

Okay… so now I understand what Twitter is all about

Image originally from the Morguefile. Click to view the original

Image originally from the Morguefile. Click to view the original

I’ll admit the idea of telling people what you were doing at any given moment did not appeal to the side of me that adores my privacy. Also, being involved in conversations with others that absobed so much chatter didn’t spark the curiosity of that extremely methodical part of me.

Yet the side of me that has come to appreciate “Stream of Consciousness” really gets it.

But after first joining Twitter I can see what people like about it.

A few tricks I learned quickly to reduce the noise factor on twitter:

  • The more followers/followees you have the faster the pace of the conversation. It’s good to search for conversations using “key words.” You can also save the chat
  • You can easily save tweets you like by clicking the “Star” or favorites option.
  • Just accept that you’re not going to get every piece of information being shared. Twitter is pretty ephemeral and it embodies that life of ephemerality characteristic of some aspects of “Internet life.”
  • Make comments even ones that appear to have no point every now and then.
  • If you’re sharing something cool include the link (be forewarned… if the link is too long you may not be able to share it. Hopefully, web developers out there whose pages require long urls are noting this. Or the twitter people might be able to develop a feature that allows you to associate links to text so you don’t go over the 140 character limit).
  • Addressing someone directly requires including their Twitter ID (ie. @nlkilkenny) in your tweet or post.
  • If you must, you can search through the archive of a saved search. Depending on the volume of a conversation you may be searching for sometime till you get to the beginning.

I’ve actually learned a lot this weekend on Twitter. Sorry to go off on a tangent, but I get this way when I learn a good deal of new and fascinating stuff.  I saved a search for Arduino technologies because I’ve very interested in learning how to make clothing and knitwear use electronic features using the Arduino Lilypad.

Arduino Lilypad
Arduino Lilypad

Can you imagine having a purse that’s hooked up to your cellphone so that it blinks a certain way when different people call? I’d also like to make some kind of garment (even just wristbands) for my brother that plays different sounds. He’s a musician that tries to bring traditional and non-traditional sounds and instruments together: OO-Ray.  I was searching through Make.com’s site and found some very fascinating applications with Arduino tech including this Fabric Synthesizer. What a wonderful way to showcase ingeniuity and creativity.

Art and textiles meet electronics and music

Art and textiles meet electronics and music

Work in Learning/Learning at Work

Written in response for Rupa’s Work and Learning Blog Carnival :)

I recently met someone who was just starting a new job. She lamented the fact that she had to sit through an entire week of orientation training.

“Wow, they still do that?” I responded.

She said she just finished the fourth day of the training and it was brutal, boring. To her point, most of that information would just be lost or forgotten trivia shortly after the training sessions. But I suppose this approach alleviates the training organization’s responsibility. Once you expose the students to it, it’s simply up to them to learn and absorb it.

It makes sense to have some orientation as a group for newbies, but to cram everything into one session at the beginning doesn’t make any sense. What about doing the following instead:

  1. Hit the main/and crucial points (anti-sexual harassment, benefits information, safety, brief rah-rah about company philosophy/policy) in a one day session. Give everyone their continental breakfast with bagels, croissants and fruit.
  2. During the session point out or give the students a reminder of where to get training and information about the different areas both online or in actual face to face sessions.
  3. Set up a training plan and schedule for individuals that covers both general company/organization information and specific job related information. The latter is the responsibility of the manager and immediate parent group. It’s a pain in the ass, managers, but it is your job.
  4. Most importantly set each new employee up with one or two buddies and mentors. Make mentorship an job responsibility expectation for all company employees. These mentors are responsible for meeting with the employee, more frequently at first, in order to gauge their progress. The mentors should have a checklist or progress plan for the new employees to check whether or not they’ve completed training or reviewed guidelines for their area or role. I think having a mentor specific your job role would be important as well. This is someone who a new employee can shadow to learn about specific group or job role training items. My first group at my old job did an excellent job of facilitating this buddy training.
  5. Finally, actively cultivate a culture of social learning through networking. Younger and newer employees who haven’t be indoctrinated by a culture of competition and hoarding information seem to take to this more naturally.

The best jobs I’ve ever had actually provided the above training/mentorship in some shape or form. I think that there’s the old Protestant Work Ethic assumption that learning is not work, and that you’re not supposed to do it on company time. It’s a stupid assumption, I know, but old habits in old dogs are hard to break. I think that some forward-thinking companies are now challenging this assumption. They now see learning/training as the vehicle that allows their employees to become more productive in a shorter period of time. They also view learning and sharing as a key element to fostering creativity and innovation amongst their employees, but wherever you have management who only cares about the appearances of productivity (not a bright bunch to begin with) and short term goals, you won’t find a culture of learning an growth.


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