Archive for the 'Analysis' Category

Using QR codes & your CMS to create media enabled learning workstations

I’ve been playing with this idea of using QR codes at workstations to help link employees to training content and media. The idea is that the learners easily access any learning media associated with the workstation equipment from a phone or tablet that they access using a QR Code tied to this content. If multiple process instructions are needed at the workstation, multiple QR codes, labeled appropriately can be listed on a laminated card present at the workstation.

This would provide a great opportunity to leverage tagged learning content housed in a Content Management System (CMS) built in Drupal or possibly SharePoint (with some jerry-rigging). The proper administrators could monitor and update content as needed and editors or approvers could be notified when new content needed to be reviewed before publication. You can leverage some of the content administrative tools to log dates from last updates and who was involved.

I am still working out the details around this plan. I will update as I flesh out more.

A few additional considerations:

  • Always make sure closed captioning is available or employees have access to headphones to avoid distracting co-workers with audio or video content
  • Decide if the content is not appropriate for viewing outside the firewall. If so, the phones or tablets used would have to be given access within the wall
  • If you’re providing video, audio content or demos, make sure to always include text content of scripts or step action tables. Enable users to forward or email links to this content to their email accounts or workstations. There are always a handful of people who want to read things on their own. As always, it’s best to accommodate as many learning styles as possible
  • Set up a scheduled update procedure for content. Even if content does not need to be updated it’s always good practice to coordinate a regular review with SME’s to check on if processes or software updates may impact the procedures documented
Click to view recipe card in full size

Click to view recipe card in full size

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Brrrr-ainstorming online learning activities

I have a little bit of time to think about generating as many ideas for online learning activities. This list of course is not exhaustive, and I will probably benefit from the contributions of colleagues, at work and not at work.

Click to view larger image.

I’m trying to keep these activity ideas simple and as ‘familiar’ as possible. Not all stakeholders are open to newer forms of learning online. Whenever introducing a strange or unfamiliar tool or technique (for example: using synchronous chat or Twitter to facilitate discussion)  I try to pair it with a similar or analogous term use for traditional or face to face training.

In my past experience, I found that designing learning opportunities is only the first part of good online learning design. Facilitator preparation and training is the next key piece to achieving success. In my last position I was fortunate enough to work with a crack team of Instructional Designers who worked hard not just to create the training materials, LMS (Learning Management System) simulations, and activities to prep our facilitators by helping them adjust to the ‘culture’ of working online.

Last week I was able to quickly develop a slide set that covers my take on successful online facilitators based on what I’ve learned from my experience. You will have to download the presentation via Slideshare to view my notes.

Can your Workplace Adopt/Embrace the Informal Learning Concept?

Many, many moons ago I wrote a post on Knowledge Management Systems that illustrated Marc Rosenberg’s KM model. This model depicts an organization that has a truly integrated system of sharing knowledge that includes formal training and an ongoing mentoring system for it’s employees. This model includes use of social media to connect employees.  Since I wrote this post, the use of social media online for both connecting and learning has exploded. Many more company executives (though not as many as there could be) are now schooled on the finer points of using social media as promotional vehicles as well as within the organization to enhance employee learning and knowledge.

Recently, On his blog, Jay Cross presented an adapted version of Jane Hart’s 5-Stage Model of the Evolution of Workplace Learning.

http://www.informl.com/2010/05/07/workscape-evolution/

Here’s the visual that illustrates this.

From informl.com (Jay Cross)

As Cross points out in his post, the more familiar your workers are with online networking tools and media,  the more they can readily use social networking support to improve their learning and skills.   You need to be able to assess where your audience of learners skill lies in the following areas: Web/Tech Expertise and Social Networking Familiarity.

From informl.com (Jay Cross)

Going back to the “5 Stages” illustration shown above, the newbies or novices to the workplace, culture, organization, or system would be FIRST guided to the LMS where formal learning can take place (your essentials such as terms of service, legal information, safety, organization mission, organizational structure, job skills, compliance training, etc.). If you need to track learning in a blended model (both face to face and online), you can use the LMS to keep track of who’s completed what training as they come into your workplace or program.

In the grand old days when most training was done in face to face sessions complete with massive binders and glossy handouts, training really only took place at the beginning and employees or trainees were expected to absorb what they could from the training. If they couldn’t remember everything that was okay because they had their gigantic binders as a print reference.  This system works when the nature of the work can be completely documented in print and is static. In other words, nothing changes about the nature of the job and there are NO variables.

Some workplaces assign ‘buddies’ or coaches to new employees. It’s often part of the work coach’s job to model or teach these learning behaviors to their employees. At one entry-level job I had many years ago, I remember my work coach or mentor telling me something as basic and obvious, as “There’s no such thing as a stupid question.” In sharing this with me she was essentially letting me know, “It’s safe to ask questions here. We’d rather you do things right or learn by asking, and we won’t punish you for what you don’t know.”

Can you imagine what would happen if this guy afraid to ask questions about his job?

A truly rich “Informal Learning” environment can provide learners with the support they need to deal with variables NOT covered in formal training. And here’s the big “But,” you have to teach effective mentoring behaviors to all staff and reinforce these behaviors as much as possible. The informal learning model explicitly sets the expectation that learning and workplace improvement inherently part of the work culture. Employees must see it as part of their job responsibility to take  the new guy under their wing. The sooner you get the newbie up and flying the sooner everyone can be productive and creative. Managers and employees can build checklists of knowledge, skills and ‘tribal knowledge’ that new employees need to know. These lists and even ad hoc information can be shared during social or work activity.

But Informal Learning isn’t just what you’d learn about your fellow employees from washroom or smoking break talk. Informal Learning can happen via chat and discussion forums. The other day a work colleague and myself noted that we both got ourselves unstuck from work-related ‘problems’ by looking up similar situations or issues in professional forums online. It’s just as easy to set up an internal online work chat or forum.

I’ve seen some older employees cringe at the words “Informal Learning.” Many of the more ‘traditional’ workplaces place a lot of value on formal learning (lectures, lessons, face to face training, etc.)  because that’s the people, are used to.  I think  the key to building a truly learning rich environment and workplace is to highlight where social learning is really happening naturally and successfully and then introduce less familiar methods of leveraging informal learning. But again, if your company or organization doesn’t have a clear definition of what it means to learn effectively (outside of formal training) the concept of Informal Learning will be a hard sell. Maybe it’s just a matter of re-branding it or camouflaging it.  As for the acceptance of learning via social media… Maybe we just have to wait until the technologies that propel Informal and Social Learning (forums, chat, wikis, etc.) become more commonplace and accepted by the majority.  It will happen, eventually 🙂

How Good Instructional Design Can Help You Build Better Web Content

I’ve been reviewing GUI Bloopers to reaffirm some of the design issues I’ve been facing lately, and I ran across the following principle:


Basic Principle 2: Consider function first, presentation later.

Jeff Johnson goes on to better define what this means in this quote:

“A software application embodies certain concepts and relationships between concepts. Designers should fully define the concepts and their relationships before they design how to present the concepts to users.”

Applying Instructional Design principles used to do a simple task analysis can help facilitate better design. Simply, you should be able to clearly define the tasks you want the users to complete in interacting with your site, application, or GUI.

I have a somewhat simple example.

Say you’re creating a site for users with the purpose of informing them how to effectively podcast.

You do a simple task analysis that asks the following:

  • What knowledge do the user/learners need?
  • What behaviors do they need if any to do this?
  • What skills do the need to be able to perform?

After you answer these questions (identifying the content items for your site),  you will need to create formal learning objectives to guide users through the content they need to be able to accomplish the task, activity or perform the skill that the site is teaching.  There is an art to writing good learning objectives that are measurable, and there are whole websites and books devoted to this subject, but for the purpose of this exercise, I am writing them in a very simple form. In the podcasting example, a set of learning objectives may look like this:

Learner will be able to:

  1. Define what a podcast is and how it is used by both podcasters and listeners.
  2. Identify tools needed for downloading podcasts.
  3. Use a simple audio recording tool/software to record a podcast.
  4. Publish their podcast.

In this scenario you could organize the learning content by the learning objectives. Let’s say you create a simple schematic/wireframe for your web page that looks like this:

This, of course, is a very simple example but the same steps could be used to determine the page layout or content for a site or sub page to a site. From this point you could treat all four of the items above as main categories in the site and determine sub or enabling learning objectives and content items needed to meet these over-arching objectives.

It may seem like this method is over thinking the development of content for the web, but I have found that this method of determining content by ‘Task Analysis’ actually helps better address learner needs rather than simply spilling out a pile content items and then trying to figure out an organizational structure around your pile after wards.

The same task analysis methods can be applied to GUI design of a tool.  Just ask yourself (bear in mind some of these questions are over-simplifying things but but there are still users out there who don’t know these things):

  • What to the users need to know to be able to use this application?
    • Example question – Do they know how to use a file menu?
  • What skills do the need to successfully work with the tool?
    • Example question – Do they need to know how to upload a file such as a .gif or a .wav file?
  • Are there any behaviors or attitudes about technology your audience has that may impact how they use and view the tool?
    • Example question – Do the users in your audience like to read printed materials? (Though personally I think we should discourage this as much as possible)

I believe that if you answer some of these questions up front before you start designing the tool, you win at least 80% of the the battle when it comes to conceptualizing design effectively.  The result: More happy users.

Happy User vs. Sad User

Happy User vs. Sad User

Understanding the 21st Century Learner

I’ve seen a few of these presentations floating around the web, but I’m sharing this one because it’s a good discussion piece for people to share with others. I found this on the Always Learning blog.

We make this case all the time that the “Net Generation” learns differently than many of their predecessors. I’ve seen many adults view their children’s way of communicating and connecting with suspicion and fear.  It’s almost as if some of us adults are living in the movie Village of the Damned with all the Midwich Cuckoos. We’re really not quite sure how to handle the quirks of our progeny and we fear what they’re capable of because we don’t understand. Well, in the movie they really did have a reason to be afraid because the children were evil aliens.

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3MBresWP9MY]

You can actually view the entire movie on Youtube.

Of course, our children aren’t evil aliens. What a silly thought. I do still think that the young can benefit from experience and guidance, and this is something that we star-struck adults shouldn’t forget. Part of 21st century education should truly focus on teaching critical thinking because of all the information out there that young people must sift through to separate the wheat from the chaff. Critical thinking should be a behavior ingrained in young adults. They should be able to analyze the nature any subject including the advantages and disadvantages.  This type of thinking should be as natural as breathing.  I can think of an exercise that applies to the subject of electronic connectivity.

There are some advantages to being connected all the time, but there are always disadvantages.  I threw this image together in less than five minutes. I’m sure if I had the help of others the responses would be much richer. As I was listing the pros and cons it was clear that many arguments for had an opposite argument against. This is something that young people (and old ones too) should be able to perceive. They must also learn to use their best judgment to determine the path of action or reaction that is correct for them based on their list of pros/cons. Of course, this is no comfort for those who like to have clear plans of action or rules set down for them.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Electronic Connectivity

Advantages and Disadvantages of Electronic Connectivity

It hurts to think… but it’s still rewarding

I’m just babbling… so you’ll have to excuse me. I haven’t been writing in my blog lately, because I’ve actually been finding journal writing (on paper) a little more satisfying. Maybe it’s because no one hears what I’m saying. No, I’m serious about that.  Sometimes it feels better to let oneself go on uncensored. Also, I find that sometimes it’s the best way for me to work things out before I’m ready to share them with others.

You may have noticed from my last post that I’m a bit obsessed with two subjects. Change and time (sub interest = resistance to change).  I wonder if I will start to develop a crusty or curmudgeonly gait as I grow older. Sometimes it feels like the world around me resists change… despite the growing impetus for change.  Sometimes it feels that it’s all too easy to confuse people because of their dependency on technology for information… and their immediate need for information. Media is simply a teat from which we feed our incessant hunger. Just change the filter or introduce a slightly different brew or concoction into the bottle and people will react accordingly. From the past century to the present, fear seems to be the most effective ingredient. If you want people to act or ‘not to act’ simply make them afraid of an enemy or impeding crisis. If you don’t want them to panic in the event of a crisis, such as economic one, simply downplay the seriousness of the problem… or even deny that it exists.

Is it only my perception, but does it seem that people just swallow these happy pills without question? I have to wonder too how easily people are swayed by what they hear even though many proclaim themselves to be cynical about the News. Sometimes I think that sharing of poll results can have an effect on the rest of the public who did not participate in these polls. They can either give us a false sense of security that our beliefs are shared by everyone, or they can dishearten us by convincing us that we are truly alone or so small in number that any hope of finding commonality with others is hopeless.

When people say that building a truly educated and enlightened society is impossible. I simply look at children and remember that most children have the ability (maybe not the opportunity) to be ‘smart.’  I listened to a Smart City podcast called Green Buildings and Smart Children not to long ago that featured Jeff Howard, head of the Efficacy Institute, which states as their goal that” The central objectives of our work are: to build belief that virtually all‘ children can ‘get smart;’ and to build the capacity of adults to set the terms to help them do so.” Some children need less help than others, but something tells me that it’s to our advantage to make sure that people ‘get smart.’ Hmmm… less problems with financial investments, better health that doesn’t tax the healthcare system, better living choices, better income … I think these arguments and many others have been made countless times in the past. I wonder what prevents us from moving forward?

I also believe that people can be taught good analytical and decision-making skills. I admit that I myself can be easily muddled by what I hear and am spoon-fed, so I rely on help to analyze what I’m seeing and hearing. I recently found a gem of a podcast called “LSAT Logic in Everyday Life.”  I loved how Andrew Brody picked apart the whole rice shortage ‘crisis,’ and reduced it to action based on faulty assumptions.  I may be a geek and a half, and that’s why this sort of thing excites me…. being able to pick apart a problem despite the assumption that it’s too difficult or impossible to solve.  Think about it, come up with a solution, and then do something about it.  To me that’s the original American ethic (good old Yankee know how) that I will be forever proud of.

Envious Thinker

Envious Thinker

Teens use of social media on the rise

PEW Report on Teen Use of Social Media: http://www.pewinternet.org/PPF/r/230/report_display.asp

I was catching up on listening to my “Future Tense” podcasts when I ran across a report on one of the latest PEW research studies on Internet use. It looks like girls seem to dominate in use of social media while boys are more likely to post online videos. More, it appears that many girls have taken on the ability to super communicate through various technology.

Some noteworthy statistics from the report:

  • 27% of teens polled maintained a personal webpage
  • 39% of teens shared their own artistic creations online
  • 26% re-mix content online

It makes sense that boys will tend to create videos that feature themselves; adolescent girls tend to be a self-conscious of their own appearance. However, this idea that their children have a presence visible to strangers must be more than unnerving for many parents. This is a given. The media certainly does their part in freaking out people even more by only highlighting what can go wrong when people’s children have a web-presence. I’m not saying that the dangers are not there, I guess I’m just a little weary of people taking the fearful approach to things rather than looking at what’s positive about the situation and then tackling the problematic and unsafe nature of things.

starwars.jpgI’m just incredibly excited that these kids enjoy creating content and putting it online. They are for all intensive purposes, taking in what they see, re-interpreting it and then creating a product from their understanding. I’ve seen countless examples of Anime Music Videos (AMV) online that attest to this. Also, I ran across a wiki created by fans of the Avatar t.v. cartoon. The fans that create the content on this wiki are basically conducting some form of character and plot analysis when they post information. Fans that participate in the wiki content creation, young and old alike, demonstrate how engaged they are in the content. Why else would they be moved to do the work? It reminds me of my own childhood when I collected Star Wars bubblegum cards (geez, I must sound like a geezer). I had to go to the library and newstands to read more about the characters. There were countless comic books and pulp novels. I remember we used to lay the cards down on the floor and arrange them according to how the the characters were related to each other or when they appeared in the plot.  When we played with the cards we used to have discussions about what we thought would happen to Han Solo after being captured by Jabba or whether or not Han and Leia would get together and have kids. Of course, as I write this I realize that I’m probably embarrassing myself.

Still, even though it’s pop culture it still doesn’t mean that it’s beneath us. If we can recognize that we’re interpreting what we see in the pop stuff fluff or not and then scaffold into understanding other literature and art then that can’t be a bad thing can it. Maybe just we old stogies need to open up a little bit and look at how children and teens interpret the world through the media they see with clearer eyes.

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