Archive Page 2

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 group’s 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 ;)) THE 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 illustrates the process in which we designed a smaller topic focused website that used user personas to create multiple layers of navigation.

The wrong way to assess culture before attempting change

Let me preface this post with a confession about my fan love for classic Sci Fi films.

The story of George Taylor from Planet of the Apes. tells us how underestimating or judging a culture at face value can lead to missteps and frustration when it comes to being an agent for change. Near the beginn
ing of the film, George was convinced that he could take over the planet, because the first sentient beings he encountered were primitive & “simple.” As he sardonically cracks:

Taylor makes an assumption without knowing who is truly in control of the planet & it's culture

Taylor makes an assumption without knowing who is truly in control of the planet & its culture

Alas, poor George ends up finding himself in this situation.

Taylor2

Then ultimately coming to this conclusion:

Taylor3

Of course at moment George made his initial assessment, he didn’t know what he was truly dealing with.

Making assumptions about the culture of the organization you when you’re attempting any change effort can result in the worst sort of initiative sabotage. It’s important that we instead really understand the culture of the groups we are working with and then plan accordingly.

Continue reading ‘The wrong way to assess culture before attempting change’

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.

CEOs: Scratch the learning from the past. Embrace lifelong learning in your workpace

This environment did not train the workforce we need today and tomorrow:

OldSCHOOL

 

We need to start fostering a learning environment and culture within our own organizations that encourages life long learners. Without this culture & environment we will not be able to generate the innovation and solutions that allow us to be leaders in the market yet alone keep up the pace demanded by changing technologies and a public who demands inter-connectivity via technology. 

Learning organizations both grow and attract star innovators and performers. Organizations that refuse to change wisely & rapidly often fade or fail. There are no magic bullets when it comes to developing a learning culture and environment. It’s really damn hard work, that doesn’t seem to pay off immediately, but it does require a vision and courage to change.

 

Slideshare: Meeting the Needs of a Rapidly Changing Workforce with the Learning Organization of the 21st Century

Looking at a shogun’s leadership/partnership lessons from a 21st century lens

21st Century advice: Freedom of Speech  at Work Requires Partnership from Both Ends

I have been sitting on this blog post for some time now. And now with the summer coming to the end, I finally find some time to finish it. After working in training and development for over 15 years, I’ve been exposed to a lot of leadership development programs. And some programs really emphasize the importance of an open door policy, but it’s not always possible to exercise it without willingness and buy in on the part of leadership. On the other hand, people who follow need to realize that the open door is a gift that should be used wisely.

Leaders should have a truly open door and be prepared to hear the good with the bad

One of my favorite stories from Japanese history is a simple story about listening and leadership…

One day while walking through his palace grounds with a retainer, the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu met a low level soldier from the ranks. The soldier had a comment to say on his regiment. When the man had finished and walked away, Ieyasu’s retainer commented with shock, “What a waste of time. How dare he address you on such a petty and insignificant manner.”

The Shogun remarked frankly:

“It took a great deal of courage for that man to approach me. If I did not listen to him, he might not ever do it again.”

 IeyasuTokugawaShogun

Tokugawa Ieyasu – Japanese Shogun who helped unite feudal Japan

With the simple gesture of listening, Tokugawa sent a message to all of his followers low and high, that they could be heard. They could speak up (within reason, of course). The most practical reasoning for this was if he had no true visibility to the workings of his court, he would not be able to guide and manage them effectively. He was probably savvy enough to recognize that his ability to lead effectively could be impeded by courtiers seeking to pander to curry favor.

In hierarchical structures and cultures of leadership that are top down, a truly open dialogue is painfully difficult if not impossible.

Followers to Leaders: don’t treat us like we’re still in middle school. Encourage an open dialogue with us

When I taught middle school students, every year I encountered at least one student who would express their dissatisfaction with rules or my decisions as a teacher aloud. I met one or two who insisted that in expressing their dissent they were expressing their freedom of speech.

Engaging in this kind of argument with anyone let alone a young person who’s testing the boundaries around them can seem like a sticky wicket. I’ve met teachers who avoid giving their students choices simply because of this fact.

I get this sense from many people in leadership positions regardless of their level or profession that there is a hesitancy to allow people to speak freely because they fear the result of this freedom, namely disagreement and even expression of dislike and resentment. This is old school leadership that can be defined by that phrase: “It’s my way or the highway” or the “buck stops here.” In the age or rapid market changes due to technology this management mechanism is too slow and inefficient to allow for the innovation and change needed to keep up and excel the market demands. Collaborative leadership should replace the old school top down model.

21st Century Advice: Don’t fear an open dialogue with people at all levels. Embrace it.

However, if we operate with the fear that people will revolt if we give them too much lee-way in expressing their feelings and opinions, then we gain our ability to control and dictate but loose our ability to lead and influence. The first option allows us to have our own way, the second makes allows those we lead to become self-sufficient and make their own decisions or act freely and efficiently to achieve the whole organization’s goals.

Leaders to Followers: use the opportunity to speak to share the issues and work with constructive solutions to solve them

But there should still be implicit rules of partnership built in any dialogue between leadership and workers and the focus must really be upon collaboration to make the organization’s goals and mission possible.

21st Century Advice: Align yourself with your company’s mission and goals,
but also find where you bring value and express this.

For those of us who are exercising our “Freedom of Speech” with our leadership, it’s important to not only be fully appreciative of the opportunity to do so, it’s good to be mindful of how we’re framing our words.

  • Are they thoughtful?
  • Are they constructive?
  • Are they forward thinking? Not focused on what happened or how things are with the past but defined by new possibilities for the future.
  • How can we help drive achievement of the organizations success? How can we be an asset?

Additional Reading & Resources:

How traditional leadership structures can destroy creativity and innovation:

http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140707105756-681714-13-ways-to-destroy-creativity-and-innovation

Ieyasu Tokugawa quotes:
http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/t/tokugawa_ieyasu.html

The Patience of Ieyasu Tokugawa:
http://hanofharmony.com/the-patience-of-tokugawa-ieyasu/

Why you shouldn’t panic about robots & software taking your job… just yet

Elon Musk of Tesla has recently noted that Artificial Intelligence poses an Arnold Schwartzenegger sized threat to our well-being as a species. However, for now…People will always be needed when navigating through the complexity of emotions and unpredictable human interaction is needed.

I’d like to expand more on the list and its description below or add to it. So this post is just an initial exploration of this subject.

So how do you insure that you have value in your organization once the move to automate work and tasks begins?

  1. Remember that successful businesses rely on people – Therefore, shine where people, humanity & emotions matter. All that talk on the value of Emotional Intelligence is relevant in the upcoming techpocalypse. Robots or software still can’t manage people. They also can’t read and respond to emotion… (yet. That’s a joke – sort of I think they may be working on robots that can emote and respond to emotion).
  2. Demonstrate your ability to make key decisions or act when processes and procedure come up short or doesn’t work. – Any task or process that can be documented or automated is up for grabs where automation is concerned.  – EXAMPLE: Creating standardized reports from excel data. 
  3. Become an innovator or connector of ideas or ways to improve process to meet your group’s business needs. Most software & robots can’t innovate or come up with innovative ideas. As the article posted below states your ability to be creative sets you apart from automation.

 

EmpathyvsRobots

Images from the Morguefile

 More to think about (related posts):

Great postHow to Keep Software from Stealing Your Job

SlideShare – 17 Cartoons That Will Change Your Business by @BrianSolis @Gapingvoid from Brian Solis Slide 18 of this presentation really speaks to the importance of empathy and solving real problems in business. Sometimes the best solutions come from solving human suffering or difficulties and “that requires empathy.”

Traditional leadership just won’t do – we need collaborative leaders

Traditional leadership just isn’t going to cut it anymore if we want to build a collaborative and engaged workforce that generates winning ideas that will help us find innovative solutions to achieving affordability while staying ahead of our competition.  We need to re-examine how we lead our people.

A few differences between the leaders of the past versus the ones needed today and tomorrow:

  • Traditional leaders tend to hoard information while collaborative leaders embrace transparency & openly share knowledge – Under a collaborative manager, staff get answers and can build solutions faster without having to always ask for information.
  • Traditional leaders drive or lead in offering solutions to their team while collaborative leaders encourage suggestions and ideas from their team – Collaborative leaders sit back and listen and encourage creative solutions from their people. They don’t always drive the solutions or discussion and create a “Yes” culture. More, they trust their people (whom they’ve selected, hired, or developed) to bring the best solutions to the table.
  • Traditional leaders fight fires and focus on symptoms while collaborative ones seek to uncover the root causes of issues – Collaborative leaders are often asking “why?” They also encourage their staff to as why &  find the causes of issues or innovate better and more efficient processes. Traditional ones often are resigned to work with the systems and environment as the are and NOT challenge them.

Read more about the differences between traditional & collaborative leadership  – Differences between Traditional & Collaborative Leaders

The Leadership Secret that will Help You Super Charge Your Team – How honing your Emotional Intelligence can help you manage and build a team that’s positive and collaborative.

Image from Innocentive

TraditionalvsCollaborative


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