Video: The Come-Back Kid!

No, not me – although I have been very quiet in the bloggersphere lately.

I’m talking video. Yes, Video, …. YOU are the Come-Back Kid. In the learning world that is. I’ll bet if anyone does a search on Google (other search engines are available) they’ll have you pop up at least once in the search results.

Isn’t it great how accessible learning is nowadays? If you want to make a gingerbread house for Christmas (not that my gingerbread ended up as a house – more like stars. I ran out of patience) or fit a new car radio you had as a gift; from tuning your new bow to get the best grouping arrows to clipping your West Highland Terrier – you can bet your bottom dollar, you’ll be there, video; somewhere on YouTube, Vimeo or on a product site to name but three.

You’re there for those who just downloaded a new piece of software, to help show them the way to use it; to give a helping hand; to provide support; to help them learn something new. You’re there to engage us emotionally with content that would otherwise send us screaming for the exits or dribbling into our morning coffee. You’re like our favourite movies, making emotional connections; allowing us to consider from different perspectives; to put ourselves in others’ shoes.

Oh but, video, you’ve been around for a long time now and brought us some of the finest British comedy talent into our dull little corporate lives. Some of us will remember, fondly, how you brought subjects like, ‘how to run meetings’, ‘dealing with challenging behaviour’, ‘customer care’ to life in glorious technicolour. How many of these faces are now ‘national treasures’ here in Britain and fondly thought of elsewhere.

Now you bring us a plethora of video content. No longer on reel-to-reel, nor on VCR; but moreover on DVD and the Internet. From desktop to mobile. According to the following delightfully engaging piece, we can expect 90% of all Internet traffic to be video by 2014. Its content is not specifically about using you for learning purposes, video, but as we do with so many other things, we can learn from it.

BoT: What’s a VIDEO worth? from BoT Videos on Vimeo.

Everyone who is anyone seems to want to create another you, video. Including me. You have become so accessible that armed with just a reasonable digital camera and a affordable video editing software or a screen-capture program such as Camtasia, we can easily get started. And, if you are canny enough and follow some best practice guidelines, and make use of a number of freely available screen-capture or video editing software. Even with the basics, we’ll have great results.

Yes, video … you rock! But just hold on to your horses there a moment, Come-Back Kid, before you get yourself all carried away … and us with you … like we did with your predecessor the eLearning tutorial! There’s a time and a place for everything. And, although you are now the A-lister again, you still need to consider which will be your best roles, versatile though you are?

We’ll ponder that for a while and find out at a later date…

Stories and analogies

Image by Полина Андреева from Pixabay

Now don’t faint – I’m just writing a short post – promise!

I recently came across a new blog.  Nowadays I’m awash with information from my social media sources and I do find it easy to just skim through my e-mail subscriptions hitting the delete key as I go or skip down my Twitter stream looking for something interesting to catch my eye (yes, I know you all post interesting posts and I do try to keep up to date).  Therefore the catchier the ‘headline’ the more likely I am to take a closer peak.

And that’s exactly what happened with this post from Ethan Edwards of Allen Interactions “e-learning… as easy as pie“.

It just goes to confirm how powerful stories and analogies are in helping people understand often complicated or bewildering information.

Read and enjoy!

Why we shouldn’t call it blended learning!

Image by Полина Андреева from Pixabay

Those who know me will certainly be taken aback. After all, I admit, I must sound like a broken record; I’m always banging on about how blended learning is the foundation on which successful learning solutions is built on.

So why am I advocating a change of name?  Because there is still a lot of confusion around what the term ‘blended learning’ describes.

What do some people think it is?

  • eLearning tutorial+classroom+eLearning tutorial (what I call the classroom sandwich)
  • A classroom course with some computer work included within it
  • Has to include a classroom element with virtual classroom and or online tasks
  • A mix of different learning methods
  • Has to include some computer-based or online activity
  • A collection of diverse resources to dip into when you need some on-demand help

Well, it may surprise you to hear that none of the above are true – and yet – all are true to a greater or lesser extent.  How can this be?

We are in a time where digital has become our first means of communication.  The world COVID crisis has removed the option of any (or mostly) face-to-face learning delivery.  Our default has become digital – it had to.  But an effective digital learning solution is a blended one. And no, blended learning doesn’t necessarily mean there is any classroom in sight.

So what IS blended learning? 

Well, it depends.

“Depends on what?” you might ask…

It depends on the situation and because there are too many variables in any given situation, there is no one right blend template. The only right blend is the one that has been carefully designed for a particular set of circumstances. Every blend should be as unique as the situation it addresses. 

How can we get the right blend?

We can only do this if we investigate thoroughly before making any decisions.

  • What’s the performance required: What’s happening that shouldn’t or not happening that should? What impact does this have on business performance? Where do we need to get to?
  • Who are the people: what are their needs, gaps, experience, motivation?
  • What are the practicalities: what do we have available, what can’t we get, what are the limitations, what are the strengths etc

Our investigations will help us establish whether formal training is the solution (or part of) and where it fits. It will help us identify where less formal approaches such as coaching, just in time resources, and an ‘in at the deep end’ will play a part.

Once we’ve established the need, we will use the data gathered to help us outline the most appropriate learning approach, structure, and effective combination of activities.

We will be able to decide on how we can deliver these activities that makes the best use of the resources we have and that will work well for the particular learning activities we’ve chosen. 

The model below, illustrates how a (blended) learning framework leverages all contexts in which people learn, from formal training (live virtual classroom, self-paced online content, classroom, elearning tutorial), formal learning facilitation (live virtual classroom and self-paced tasks) performance facilitation (coaching and mentoring), supporting continued learning and performance and on-demand resources.

On top of this sits ‘support in the workplace’ whether this is from the learning and development team, line managers or peers). Blended Learning Infographic showing the blended learning framework as the base foundation bar and support in the workplace as the top bar. In between there is shown a range of 6 learning method examples. Group 1 is designing live online and self-paced learning and the facilitation of both. Group 2 is classroom design and facilitation. Group 3 is elearning tutorial design. Group 4 is coaching and mentoring. Group 5 is on-demand media content and group 6 is learning on the job in the workplace.

Remember, each situation is unique so each blend will be unique that may use a mix of some or all methods below. A blended learning approach is a whole workplace learning approach. 

But if not ‘Blended Learning’, what should we call it?

Wonderful eLearning

Happy Day by Peter IsmagilovLast week I attended yet another excellent event run by the eLearning Network. I always enjoy spending time in the company of like minded people all with one goal in mind – better quality eLearning. If you weren’t able to make it, then there was an active back channel in Twitter so check out #elnevent to catch up.

First up was Bill Miller of Wonderful Learning. Well, it was certainly a wonderful session and a great way to kick the whole day off which was all about attaining ‘truly effective eLearning’.

Why? Because Bill took us back to considering what is THE most important element of successful eLearning – how our learners feel!

If we consider for just a moment, how many of us are unable to think straight whenever we feel anxiety or stress; how we go blank when taking exams. Bill’s session took us through a highly engaging and entertaining trip through the thinking of Carl Rogers and his setting of the emotional climate; introduced us to the neurobiologist Antonio Damasio and his thoughts on the effect emotions have on our decision-making; and a little insight into recent brain research.

With the introduction of MRI scanning, we’ve been able to find out amazing things about how our brains react to different stimuli. Connie Malamed in her blog The eLearning Coach shared a great piece about Emotions and Learning

Without going into the science bit… you can look that up for yourselves… let’s consider the following-

For some years now, as classroom facilitators we’ve begun to realise how important it is to ‘settle’ our learners so their learning environment is comfortable. We understand about removing barriers that may ‘get in the way’ of their openness to learn. We are what some may call ‘people’ people. We know it’s important to build a trusting relationship between us and our learners and to foster the same among them. Becoming increasingly aware of how our own actions will help or hinder has transformed the physical classroom environment into a positive and enjoyable experience.

Why, then, do we often forget this when introducing learning in an ‘e’ environment?

If you imagine that you have been taken out of this familiar, comfortable, setting surrounded by others in the same situation who you can confide in, draw on for support, and where there is someone who can give guidance and advice… then you are plunged into this strange and isolating world of technology, where the only voice seems to be your own, where the tools you have been given are unfamiliar and it seems you are cut off from humanity? How do you feel?

It seems when our learners are thrown into the unknown, the unfamiliar, we remove from them that which helps overcome their feelings of anxiety. If anything, as instructional designers and facilitators of eLearning, we should work even harder to incorporate the research of Carl Rogers, Antonio Damasio and what we are increasingly learning about that little almond shaped part of our limbic system, the amygdala and its influence on our decision-making.

Becoming more self-aware in our design of learning (‘e’ or otherwise, or rather, more aware of our learners’ needs, experiences and emotions, we can design for THEM.

Taking you back to Bill’s session here are some of his thoughts to leave you with:

  • There are more neural pathways to the pre-frontal cortex (the thinking part of our brain) than going back
  • The rational thought processes have been emotionally tagged because they pass through the limbic system (our emotional part of the brain)
  • Emotions need to be at the forefront of learning

The session that followed Bill’s linked superbly by looking at the importance of user interface design from Richard Hyde of Mind Click but more of that another day.

Knowing me, knowing you … A-ha! The key success

What makes an effective learning solution?

I’ve asked the same question many times over the years with the following responses:

  1. Relevant
  2. Realistic
  3. Interactive
  4. Goal based
  5. Flexible
  6. Challenging
  7. Structured but not controlling

Although all of these elements are important they pale into insignificance without one vital consideration because without it, learning doesn’t hit all the marks.

When discussing a hypothetical situation recently, it was suggested that if we were to produce a specific training programme within the given timescales, within the given budget, using the given resources, to the large number of learners, the only way to get this done in time was to forego the analysis of the audience’s needs, experience and characteristics! The reason given was that there would just not be the time.

Looking back at the first word in the list above (and this is more often than not the top-most mentioned word), then how can you produce a learning solution that is relevant if you are not fully aware of the current situation. Without knowing your audience, how can you design the most appropriate solution for them. What you’d actually end up with is the usual blunderbuss approach i.e. blast it out and hope you hit the target!

Unfortunately, and sadly, this seems to be a common decision and subsequently, is the reason why a lot of training solutions, ‘e’, classroom or blended, can suffer.

Today I attended an eLearning Network event where the theme was ‘truly effective eLearning’. The key ingredient for its success running throughout the discussions was the need to be more learner-centred. Without knowing your audience, how could eLearning (or indeed any learning) be learner-centred?

Then tonight, by chance, I also read something Clive Shepherd posted on an Onlignment blog post ‘making transforsmation happen: analysis and design‘ which reinforces how imperative the analysis is.

So as the song goes… “Knowing me, knowing you is the best I can do”!

Designing eLearning? Here’s a little help from your friends!

Image by Annie Spratt from Pixabay

It’s been clear for some time now that organisations are moving increasingly towards implementing eLearning to improve efficiency in delivering training. Whether the eLearning they’re considering is the most appropriate or only solution is a whole different story.

However, let’s imagine that you’ve carried out an in-depth analysis looking closely at the needs and experiences of your audience, established the the performance need, made sure there’s clear link to organisational goals and considered all possible options. You’ve come to the conclusion that the type of e-learning appropriate, whether wholly or as part of a blend, is the self-study interactive tutorial.

OK, so now you’re confident in your decision, now you have to decide how this should be done. If you’ve ruled out going externally and buying off the shelf, the alternative is to produce yourself in-house.

But what if you’re new to all this stuff? Well you could go on a course! But what if this isn’t an option – where do you start? There’s so much information and advice out there you can feel overwhelmed so I thought I’d get some useful resources together which might help in your quest for creating the holy grail of eLearning – that which engages and produces effective results.

Firstly, here are just a small selection of my own blog posts to start you thinking:

The great thing about the eLearning community is everyone loves to share. Here are some excellent resources from some of the greats in the e-learning field (and I mean only some – there are many more but these are good to get you started):

Take a look at Cathy Moore’s blog and particularly her ‘Action Mapping‘. One important way of making elearning more realistic, relevant and engaging is using stories and scenarios. Here’s another post by Cathy Moore on creating mini scenarios.

I’ve often said that PowerPoint is your secret weapon when creating eLearning so my advice is to learn all you can about how to use its graphics as in depth as you can. Oh… and trash the template. By that, I mean, avoid the default, bulleted list style template and create your own from a blank slide. For ideas on how you can be creative with PowerPoint, check out Articulate’s Rapid eLearning Blog. No matter what authoring tool you have, the Rapid eLearning Blog will give you handy tips and ideas.

I’d definitely recommend putting The eLearning Coach on your reading list. Here’s a great post on different ways to provide feedback in your elearning.

Kineo has also got a lot of great resources and free advice too.

You need to balance effective learning with effective visuals when designing eLearning and in the absence of a graphic design qualification here are some good resources. These aren’t eLearning based but some ideas can be applied to eLearning screens:

And if you want professional advice backed up by research, get ‘e-Learning and the Science of Instruction‘ by Ruth Clark and Richard Mayer. Here’s my review of this book.

Well, I think that’s enough to get you all starting to think about what makes good eLearning. As I said, there’s so much more out there but these are certainly my favourite and will be more than enough for you at the beginning.

So go on – give it a go. As the saying goes… it’s easier to eat the elephant one bite at a time. Give yourself small, achievable goals and practise. Join and participate in communities like Articulate’s ‘e-Learning Heroes‘ community where you can share some of your ideas and prototypes to get feedback from others in the community. I’d also recommend joining the eLearning Network, a UK organisation ‘run by the eLearning community for the eLearning community’ sharing best practice.

But just to leave you with a thought…. it’s all very well knowing where to go for help and advice but to put some great eLearning out there in your organisations you’ll need backing and support. Not only from your colleagues but from your managers. Clive Shepherd briefly covers this in his post ‘Tools, talent, training and, above all, time‘ and my follow-up post ‘Dream the impossible e-dream‘.

What are your favourite ‘go-to’ resources to help you design eLearning or digital content?