Archive for May, 2007

Egg > Chicken Content vs. Objectives


Artwork by E. Kilkenny

Question for Instructional Designers out there (and others who develop learning materials)… have you ever encountered the following situations?

  • SITUATION A: You work with the Content/Subject Matter Experts (CE’s and SME’s) to develop objectives for a course. You have the course files and printable materials created and developed and in the eleventh hour, one of the SME declares that you must add additional questions that he/she drafted to the final exam. In addition, they have drafted additional tables and content which don’t appear to align with any of the learning or performance objectives.
  • SITUATION B: The SME’s or developers of the content through a great deal of content (which requires the student to re-call information) rather than practice or perform tasks. Moreover they just want to throw content out to the learners. There is little or no thought to what a successful learner (looks/behaves like). Just put the stuff out there they insist must be in the course. The learners must ‘know’ everything.

The Fast Food Approach:

Both situations seem indicative of a “Fast Food Approach”to developing training. It seems that I’ve worked with so many groups who seem to feel that the “Fast Food Approach” to learning is the only option they have (we’re so ‘busy’ we don’t have time for anything else). It’s much easier to take the seemingly easier and quicker path to develop training. It’s faster than taking the time to build out your business process around the tasks you wish to train to or to determine the expected behaviors and proficiencies (for the learner). Practitioners of the “Fast Food” method seem to cling to the following options when it comes to developing learning content:

  • Content Dump – Dump as much content and theory on them as possible. Build the learning objectives around the content. While understanding the breadth of the content might provide a good start, just developing the lessons and objectives around content is just like mixing random ingredients into a bowl without considering what kind of cake you want and how big you want it to be.
  • Lecture (Passive Learning) -We don’t have the time to develop anything past lecturing (PowerPoint)
  • Give them job aids! – Job aids are GOOOOOOOOOD. Job aids are easy to develop and they seem satisfied with them (the problem with this is that most job aids teach to linear processes. No way to help them understand how to troubleshoot)

In conversations with some of my fellow instructional designers, I posited that perhaps the inclination to develop lessons around knowledge content for passive learning stems from the fact that it’s a more familiar and easy approach to developing training. It’s familiar because generations of people who were ‘formally’ educated relied on the rote memorization approach for learning materials. Easier to develop because it’s often easier to go with what you know (content) rather than how to develop the content best around the learner’s needs.

Possible Remedies to the Fast Food Approach:

If you’re developing training around a systems change or business process… Map out what the successful process is like. Determine the ‘key’ performance objectives of each of the players involved in that system.

If you’re developing training around expected performance goals … (Example: we want the learner to be proficient at writing an expository essay or we want the learner be proficient at writing a differentiated instruction lesson plan). Determine what the successful behavior looks like. List the major skills/knowledge needed to achieve this behavior/performance. Determine if these skills/knowledge are terminal or enabling. Determine if there are additional enabling objectives necessary for achieving the terminal ones. Order those skills and knowledge objectives (if necessary) in the order which is needed to accomplish the tasks or demonstrate the behaviors successfully.

Benefits of NOT following “The Fast Food Approach”:

  • If performance/behaviors are measurable you can align your evaluation and assessment to track if learning results in successful performance
  • You won’t be wandering around the desert of Training Design Revisions for forty years
  • You have a solid outline for developing sound training content – Note: that along the way you might discover that some of the objectives can change, especially after you’ve done a pilot test of your training. Sometimes simply the Instructional Designer or the SME might find that they missed something that they need to revisit. However, I’ve found that when you have strongly thought out and well-authored objectives as a guide you don’t have to deal with SME’s or stakeholders adding content willy-nilly.
  • The training content fits the needs of the learners and isn’t just driven by the knowledge held by the experts.  I’d like to cover this in a future post, but lately, I’ve been feeling that most of lecture-based content is so instructor-centered rather than learner centered.  Let’s face it when you’re teaching on-line spending hours lecturing or presenting content just doesn’t cut it anymore. The students might as well have a book.

Great guidline for creating podcasts using Captivate

Silke Fleischer authored a great article on using Captivate for creating podcasting. The article provides great tips including recording screen size settings and how to help viewers see mouseover cues when you are creating a software demo. I have tried using SoThink software for converting .swf files created in Captivate to podcasting format. It works pretty seamlessly.

A couple things to remember when developing for podcasting with Captivate:

  • Remember not to use click boxes, input, or anything which requires end user interactivity. After podcasting is suited for lecturing format
  • Record your audio files separately using Audacity or another audio recording device. You may be able to reduce the file size of your output
  • Stick to creating visual podcasting content in small chunks again Captivate tends to create hefty files.

Mobile learning: Adobe Captivate content on video iPod devices

Can you say cubicle?

I cannot comment any further… the video speaks for itself.

Warning in advance: there are some lingerie-clad ladies on the ads in the clipstr page… oops.


Hopefully it will stay up there a little longer than it did on the You-hole.

Friday Funny – Cal Arts Motion Capture



Choosing/Designing great interactivities for e-Learning

Lately, I’ve been challenged to think of better and sensible ways of bringing learning experiences to people online. I found some great resources recently for designing great e-Learning taking into consideration proper learning intervention selection (instructional design) and web accessibility.

From my past experience, it’s always been good to start with Gagne’s Nine Events for learning. The link below provides a good example of how to apply Gagne’s Nine Events to an e-Learning.

For me one of the greatest challenges I’m facing is translating or explaining what’s possible and feasible for online training to folks who are primarily focused on designing face to face training or for people who are used to authoring learning materials for the printed page. I started brainstorming some additional possibilities to add on to the Gagne Nine for eLearning. It’s just a start… I’d like to think that there are additional possibilities and we can stretch our imagination to see what’s really possible. If we really want to help ourselves out we should start by looking at how people learn naturally first. Then look at what people are actually doing today in the real-world with the help of technology. Again, it’s all about making connections.


I actually was able to post a “handy decoder ring” or matrix of possibilities for online learning solutions. It’s not complete or comprehensive, but it’s a start.

Gagne’s Nine Events

Possible solutions/applications

1. Gain attention
  • Story
  • Flash/Captivate visual
  • Video story or scenario
  • Animation
  • Cartoon
2. Inform learners of objectives
  • Presentation slide with audio clip
  • Avatar relating course objectives
  • Video cast or podcast of instructor introducing the objectives
3.Stimulate recall of prior learning
  • Captivate, wiki page or blog for course (asking participants to post their own experience regarding the subject/topic being treated)
  • Students post brief podcasts
4. Present the content
  • Audio visual presentation (Flash/Captivate)
5. Provide “learning guidance”
  • Synchronous meeting online (Adobe Connect, Elluminate) including speaker/participant access to audio sharing/microphone.
  • Use of online chat for “Office Hours.”
  • Question and answer/discussion thread
6. Elicit performance (practice)
  • Captivate performance based test
  • Discussion thread
7. Provide feedback
  • Synchronous meeting online
  • Wiki/blog where instructor and peers can post comments to students work
8. Assess performance
  • Interactive quiz or test
  • Self-survey or assessment or skills
9. Enhance retention and transfer to the job
  • E-Portfolio or project either individual or group work. Portfolio judged by instructor.
  • Students build blog site and interact with live responses

Tales of the Heike – I-Search

Years ago, when I was teaching we used a technique called I- Search. Applied to a unit in literature, students were allowed to choose a book or story which they liked and do a sort of free-form investigation on topics or subject matter related to the book. The idea was really to get them into self-directed learning and investigation. One of the course’s I’m designing now talks about the I-Search method. I have often used a similar way of learning through inquiry to learn on my own. I believe that most people who learn on the Internet use this not-so stream-of-consciousness method to search out and find information. I’m going to include a rough I-search here in this post.


I became entranced with the story of the Heike the first time I saw the rendition from Carl Sagan’s Cosmos when I was a child.


Years later I fell in love with it again through the story “Hoichi the Earless” from the Japanese classic Kwaidan. I’m not sure why I was fascinated with the tale as a child, maybe because it’s a typical tragedy that one becomes obsessed with because we understand that life has sadness in it. Sometimes when we marvel at the major loss of others told in myths and epics… our own troubles seem pitiful in comparison. We go on with our lives, we appreciate how life does go on.


I found some beautiful artwork in a search on the Heike:

yoshitune.jpg heike_shirabyoshi.jpg heike-monogatari2.jpg heike_gio_02a.jpg


Shamisen – A japanese three-stringed instrument. I love Japanese music. It’s interesting to see how the traditional artform has evolved and is being merged with contemporary music forms.




The Power of Connections

Books made it possible to connect people with ideas. The computer and the internet make it possible for people to become connected to people and their ideas. It also makes it possible for people to collaborate with each other to develop products. The series from the History Channel describes the evolution of the PC from the efforts of the “Home Brew” hacking community to develop smaller computers.

It’s true that Hacking has taken malicious and detrimental forms. I’m not justifying illegal activity, absolutely not. However, sometimes people’s desire and efforts to circumvent the system and constrains them can actually result in new ideas, products, systems which bring us forward (Open Source).

Connections are key:

The future is defined by people who can see and make connections and create something from these connections. Part three of the series The History of Hacking makes reference to Steve Wozniak’s ability to see past the rules and definitions by making connections. I have always felt that this ability to see connections is KEY to not just being a successful innovator it’s essential to establishing a path to progress.




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