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Tags // Instructional Design

Learning by Doing : A Comprehensive Guide to Simulations, Computer Games, and Pedagogy in e-Learning

Clark Aldrich is coming out with a new book this April:

"Designed for learning professionals and drawing on both game designers and instructional designers, Learning by Doing explains how to select, research, build, sell, deploy, and measure the right type of educational simulation for the right situation. It covers simple approaches that use basic or no technology through projects on the scale of computer games and flight simulators. "

Is Instructional Video Game an Oxymoron?

This NY Times article is about the rise of online instructional games "that public interest organizations, advocacy groups and government agencies say have become the best way to reach a generation of children and teenagers weaned on video games and the Web."

Interestingly, thanks to Educational Games Don’t Have to Stink!, I realize that the games mentioned in this article don't really 'teach', they just help to illustrate ideas.

Battle Lessons

This is interesting account of the nature of decision making by US soldiers in Iraq. Specifically it is about the change in the nature of learning, from being reactive to being proactive.

[BEFORE] The Army had so loaded training schedules with doctrinaire requirements and standardized procedures that unit commanders had no time—or need—to think for themselves. The service was encouraging “reactive instead of proactive thought, compliance instead of creativity, and adherence instead of audacity,” Wong wrote in his report. As one captain put it to him, “They’re giving me the egg and telling me how to suck it...

[NOW] The younger officers have another advantage over their superiors: they grew up with the Internet, and have created for themselves, in their spare time, a means of sharing with one another, online, information that the Army does not control. The 'slackers' in the junior-officer corps are turning out to be just what the Army needs in the chaos of Iraq. Instead of looking up to the Army for instructions, they are teaching themselves how to fight the war. The Army, to its credit, stays out of their way."

[thanks blogkathleen]

How to write summaries for web and intranet pages, and why

Here's a nice list of the different types of summaries that one can write:

  1. The executive summary - summary: This is an executive summary, similar to the first sentence in a news story.
  2. The key message - summary: This type of summary conveys the single most important message on the page.
  3. The description - summary: The page description is probably the easiest option for the writer, if slightly dull for the reader. It faintly resembles the abstract that precedes an academic article.
  4. The instructions - summary: Sometimes it's easiest to just say when and how the page should be used.

It’s all about rich e-learning experiences

Here are my thoughts on the current discussion between focusing on tasks and focusing on information in an e-learning course. Amy Gahran points out that a task-oriented approach is more effective in most e-learning than an information oriented approach. My point is that a decision-making or an execution-based approach is even better. Decisions are what business organizations are about. The need to perform a task or to acquire information really depends on the decision you are trying to make. Thus, know-how is equally important as know-why or know-what, it really depends on the decision.

For example, if you are a research analyst looking into mergers and acquisitions, knowing what to look for is as important as knowing how to perform an analysis. The decision you as an analyst have to make is to figure out if there is compatibility in the two companies seeking to merge, for example.

This brings me to learning objectives. Amy mentions that a learning objective can clarify what kind of approach is needed. For example, if you have to use “know” or “understand” then an information-oriented approach is suggested, but if you use “list” or “order” or “assemble” then a task-oriented approach is suggested. This is true only for micro-level instructions. In business organizations, people demand the micro only when the macro is justified.

Too much e-learning is focused on the conditioning mindset – provide the cheese crumbs to the caged mouse and he will ‘learn’ to find his way to the exit. This is where the behaviourists have ruled for so long. The sanitizing and listing down of bullet-objectives with carefully selected words that make complete sense only to the instructional designer is the most visible indication of a behaviourist or a Fredrick Taylor-ian slant. So, what’s a better approach? Write a simple 1-2 paragraph blurb of how learning the content or the steps to a task will help you execute a decision in your practice. See how HotWired does it. Treat learners as humans and they will love you for it; treat them as cogs in a wheel and, well, they’ll just click the Close button!

Here's a simple story from Learning To Fly which describes British Petroleum’s knowledge management journey. Professor John Henderson of Boston University tells this story to senior BP managers.

I interviewed a colonel. Now this colonel was a colonel in the 82nd airborne, one of the more elite groups in the US Army. He got a call on Saturday morning at 8 o’clock reminding him that a hurricane had just hit.  He was told that the current administration had very strong ties to that particular part of the country that they did not believe that this should be left to the reserve group because they wanted no “screw-ups”.

So the orders to the colonel were very clear: go down there, provide any support necessary to the people after this hurricane and don’t screw up. Clear orders. The Army calls it intent – strategic intent. The strategic intent was clear.

This particular colonel was a very highly decorated combat soldier – he had never done this in his life. He had never actually commanded any type of civilian-related activity. He’d always been right on the front lines in hot action. It turns out as part of the executive education in the army he had been exposed to the ‘Centre for Army Lessons Learned’ as part of their executive education process.

So he got on his laptop computer he dialled into Army net, hooked into the Centre of Army Lessons Learned’ and asked the following question – ‘what does the Army know about hurricane cleanup?’

Within four hours he had:

Now, if we were to design an e-learning episode, or a knowledge asset as BP calls it, on hurricane clean-ups, how would we design it? Would we design based on tasks or information? Would we begin with a list of bullet-objectives? Here’s where I differentiate between designing an e-learning course and designing a rich e-learning experience, with all its real-life ambiguities. This is where the prospect of using e-learning as a narrative technique rocks. I'd love to hear your comments. E-mail me at maish-at-elearningpost.com.

Because Wisdom Can

This is my take on an article written in 1940 by Charles I. Gragg for the Harvard Alumni Bulletin titled Because Wisdom Can

Design Checklists for Online Help

This is a must read article for anyone interested in providing easily accessible and usable online help (or instruction). "Online help systems have evolved over the past 20 years to meet the needs of our users. Designers must consider the content, format, presentation, navigation, and access methods of online help systems. A series of design checklists based on the past 20 years of research are presented in this paper, which summarizes a journal article currently being considered for publication. The latest trend in online help system design is embedded user assistance, which includes integrating information into the interface and including an embedded help pane within that interface to display a context-sensitive online help system." [thanks usable help]

Voice and Text: An Exploration of Modality Effects in Computer-Aided Instruction

"The results of this thesis challenges a basic assumption of multimedia design, which aims to make learning more stimulating in the belief that sensory stimulation is, without qualification, conducive to learning. Indeed, the major finding of this study, that bimodal presentation (text with voice) had a hindering, rather than a facilitative, effect on learning performance was not in line with dual-coding theory, which formed the theoretical premise of this research."

Elearning on the Rise: Companies Move Classroom Content Online

This is an in-depth article on the state of e-learning implementations in companies today. To me it's like old wine in new bottles. Instead of having instructors regurgitate bullet-points to numb students, now we have multimedia on the web to do the same, only more effectively and efficiently. Learning is fundamentally a social activity. I don't know how long it's going to take for stakeholders to understand this simple truth. E-learning is not about providing multimedia instruction just-in-time; its about providing the raw materials for learners to think purposefully about a problem and to negotiate its meaning in a group setting. This purposeful understanding is more than just the sum of what is given and what is discussed, it is the attainment of dependable self-reliance -- the ability to make responsible decisions. I'm collecting my thoughts on this front for an article to be published sometime in December. Would love you hear your perspectives on this, do email me at maish-at-elearningpost.com.

“Click Nevermore”

Ted Manning from Allen Interactions sent me this lively poetic piece on e-learning: Once I took e-learning (dreary), and I pondered, weak and weary Why they forced me to go through it - who'd create this dreadful bore? While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping As of some one gently rapping, rapping on my chamber door. 'Tis Flash animation," I did mutter, "only this and nothing more." Wish I could retain some meaning, 'fore my interest careening From this dull, page-turning Fiend, Had me weeping on the floor. Yet I plodded, kicking, screaming, clicking clicks I did deplore. Then I stumbled 'pon a screen which did set my mind to reeling, Quoth instructions (Times New Raven), in a font typed very small: Click Nevermore. 'Round the interface, I peering, long I sat there wondering, fearing Doubting, dreaming dreams no learner ever dared to dream before; But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token, But now the words were clearly spoken, those instructions from before, A reedy, screechy chirpy voice through mine headphones: "Click Nevermore." Much I marveled - head was churning - was this teaching? Was I learning? Could I recall course objectives, witnessed by mine eyes before? Thus I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing, Performance outcomes? All unknown, but this I did the screen implore: "Tell me truly, what thou wantest!" Quoth the screen: Click Nevermore. "Prophet!" cried I, "thing of evil! Wretched software! Damned upheaval! Dare I click this absurd button, or doest thou warn me to abhor? What behavior seekest thee - what change in my skills' core? Tell this soul with sorrow laden, how to grasp that distant shore!" Quoth e-learning: Click Nevermore. Now the screen doth mock me truly: flickering, winking, taunting coolly, And my eyes have all the seeming of a demon most unruly, As I wait for new instructions, those that guide me through a door To a Haven blessing users, peaceful Eden, where true learning is adored. Yet I grasp no hope of leaving, for in my mind those words still roar: Quoth e-learning, "Click Nevermore."


Very interesting infographics related video on safety instruction cards found in planes. [thanks interactive narratives]

Panadol 24 Pack: new instructions for consumers

Nice usability study governing information design on the Panadol label : "This case history demonstrates how information design research and practice can bring about useful social change on a large scale. It is a lightly edited version of a report prepared for GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in August 2002 following our work on redeveloping the consumer instructions for Panadol, the most widely used paracetemol analgesic in Australia." Here's my take from this experiment: you need to test for maximum performance first, even if this means that you have to ignore regulations. "We did not, at this stage, ensure that the new instructions complied with the regulations. Rather, we developed the instructions with a view to maximising their performance, regardless of the regulatory requirements." [thanks e-literate]

Gary Klein and Cognitive Task Analysis

I'm just back from the Gary Klein masterclass on Cognitive Task Analysis (CTA) for Expert Knowledge Transfer. CTA is an analysis of the cognitive skills needed to perform a task proficiently. Gary is a very smart person with many solid years of experience analyzing how firefighters, commandos, marines, etc. make decisions under pressure. His first book, Sources of Power, is filled with many stories of high pressure decision making. His second book, The Power of Intuition, expands on the first and offers concrete methods on how to prepare people for making high-pressure decisions. CTA has many different methods, but Gary mentioned 3 that he uses often: 1) Knowledge Audit, 2) Concept Mapping, and 3) Critical Decision Method. A knowledge audit is done to quickly identify the key cognitive elements of job; concept mapping is done to quickly identify the domain of the decision; and critical decision method is done to analyze decisions made during a critical incident. Now, I know that I am not giving you much detail here, but I did try to Google for some of Gary's papers and came up with something interesting, CTA for Instructional Designers [DOC]. This papers provides a nice overview of CTA and its different methods of elicitation. The reason I am attending this masterclass is because I feel that Gary's CTA methods can give me more ammunition to analyze and learn how people use intranets and websites. I will try to write a more detailed paper on this when I get the time!

Outsourced Training Begins to Find its Niche

This article analyzes the current and emerging trends in outsourcing the training function. Something to watch out for: outsourcing of business processes: "Yet interest is growing in a third category of training outsourcing: the selective outsourcing of multiple learning tasks. Such engagements may include tactical management of some portion of learning but not all of the business processes included in an organization

Down with Boring E-Learning!

Interview with

The Power of Informal Learning

Nice overview of the rise of informal learning: "Although the pedagogical methods we


Some of Matthew Vescovo's instructional clips are hilarious. Check them out under the Archives link. Also available in book form.

Pick and choose might be key

An important message lies in this Australian experiment -- mixing both information and instruction are essential for public use of e-learning material. I wrote about this strategy in 2001 under the title of Blending Information and Instruction. What I did then, and guess what is still relevant today, is to look at companies that were providing exemplar online support. I chose Macromedia, Adobe and Apple back then and analyzed their online support strategy. These companies offered both information in the form of knowledge bases and instruction in the form of small modules and full-blown courses. This is the same strategy the Austrade pilot has implemented with success.

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Instructional Design

The seven habits based on Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's flow concept.
  1. Focus Goals
  2. Eliminate Distractions
  3. Match Student Skills and Course Level
  4. Create a Supportive Environment
  5. Create Order Through Rules
  6. Let Students Express Themselves
  7. Provide Timely and Consistent Feedback

Learner Experience Design (LXD)?

It is interesting to note the rise of "design research" as it is used today in large scale website development. There were only a handful of design research methods a few years ago: card sorting, scenarios, and personas were the traditional tools of the trade. But since the transformation (mind, body, and soul) of web design to experience design, new methods have started to emerge on a frequent basis. Mike Kuniavsky's Observing the User Experience and Brenda Laurel's (editor) http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0262122634?v=glance" target="_blank">Design Research are two prominent books charting this trend. Also, IDEO's Method Cards offer 51 different methods to gather and analyze user experience data. The need for design research seems quite obvious: work and life have become complex; we need holistic methods to understand the changing relationships before designing anything. Nathan Shedroff offers a glimpse of how holistic one needs to get in designing experiences.

I sense a similar shift in e-learning design: from instructional design to learner experience design (LXD). If this too is going to be a mind, body, and soul shift, then we are need to be more holistic. We need to look beyond learner characteristics and learning objectives. We need our own set of learner experience methods to help us understand the complexities of learning, working, and decision making in the real world. I'll be talking on this very topic at the e-Agenda 2004 forum on 25-26 March. I would love to gather some feedback, experiences, opinions from you on this subject. You can use the comment feature here or e-mail me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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