Thursday, October 16, 2014

Managing Stakeholders, SMEs and Design Team - #IMPS

The third element of IMPS is Manage.

Manage* stakeholder, subject matter expert and design team’s expectations - Get them “on-board” with designing concise, but effective courses.

Here's how:

  • Get buy-in on what is needed to accomplish the course's goal. Emphasize it is "OUR course," belonging to all stakeholders especially the learner. We want a course that is:
    • Efficient use of learners’ time, as well as the organization’s time.
    • Convenient – There needs to be as little interference and time away from their jobs as possible.
    • Instructionally sound - Teach what learners’ need in order to apply the KSA's (not more, not less).
  • Address everyone’s role:
    • They must know your role and your team’s role, as designers. So often problems occur because they believe they will determine the objectives and design the course. They also don’t know what ISD is and what you do.
    • Discuss their roles and expectations (e.g., SMEs as a resource for you to learn subject and get clarification. They are not expected to design and write content - you will design and write it as instruction that will work online - that is your expertise).
    • If they provide materials and content, use what supports the learning objectives and rewrite as needed. Let them know you will shape it to work online. They may be possessive of it so assure them you won’t change meaning – just make it concise and deliver in instructionally sound manner.
    • You will have persistent SMEs that won't give up on throwing in the kitchen sink. There's always a compromise that won’t do extreme harm to the integrity of the course – we’ll talk about that in the next phase, Prioritize.
*The Identify and Manage phases will overlap, especially in regards to introducing the roles of the SME and eLearning Designer during initial meetings and needs analysis.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

My Twist Conversation with the eLearning Guild - #DevLearn

David Kelly of the eLearning Guild interviewed me recently regarding my upcoming presentation at the DevLearn conference, "Be Concise: Designing for On-the-go Learners."

The eLearning Guild's Twist blog also has additional interviews and posts from other DevLearn presenters - all worth the visit. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

#IMPS - Identify Objectives

In my recent Being Concise - IMPS post, I introduced my approach to keeping courses concise. In today's post I want to explore the first component - Identify, as in identifying learning objectives.
"Identify appropriate learning objectives and exclude the extraneous objectives trying to sneak into the course."
Here's how:
Conduct a needs analysis (even if it must informal)
  • Stay focused on what learners need to succeed?
  • Ask questions like “How will you/they be using this” and plenty of “Why” questions - The right questions will help identify what KSAs are REALLY needed.
  • Yes, you will meet with SMEs, but also connect with and observe those actually applying the skills.
  • Don’t just take the SMEs word for it – They tend to want to teach EVERYTHING (not what is specifically needed). 
  • Learn and use the KSAs you will be teaching, as much as possible. You will see even more learning needs when you are knee deep in the subject. 
Once you have the information needed to identify your learning objectives:
  • Write up a course design plan (CDP) – Minimally outline the learning objectives.
  • Use the CDP for review and agreement with your stakeholders and SMEs (not approval – agreement).
  • Some edits may be needed, but the CDP should be a solid framework for all involved – limiting surprises and unneeded content when course drafts are presented.
Check in again for the next IMPS post and learn how to manage your stakeholders and SMEs.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

I'm Speaking at #DevLearn

DevLearn Conference - Be Concise Session 101

I'm excited to be presenting again at the DevLearn conference this fall. Below is the description of my presentation

Be Concise: Designing for On-the-go Learners
eLearning designers often face complex training topics that are difficult to deliver concisely. This results in lengthy courses that are counter to the needs of today’s learners who need to be extremely efficient with their time. To deliver effective learning to this audience means being very concise in both content and course design, while still having impact and not sacrificing instructional integrity.In this session you will learn a strategy for keeping learning concise while remaining impactful, engaging, and retaining your audience. You will explore four measures to employ in the instructional design process. First, identify appropriate learning objectives and exclude the extraneous objectives trying to sneak into the course. Second, manage the stakeholder, subject matter expert, and design team’s expectations. Third, prioritize content into levels of “must know,” “good to know,” and “nice to know.” Lastly, streamline the content, language, and course interface. You will leave this session with a practical strategy for creating concise courses while not sacrificing learning.
In this session, you will learn:
  • A design process that ensures concise, but effective, eLearning
  • How to get subject-matter experts and your team on board with creating concise courses
  • How to efficiently prioritize and manage learning content
  • How to streamline the content, language, and course interface
  • How to use learning assets to succinctly deliver content (e.g., interactions, games, visuals, analogies, infographics, etc.)
DevLearn is an incredibly informative, and fun, conference. I highly recommend it for any involved in eLearning - it is worth your time whether a beginner in the field or an expert. 

Hope to see you there.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Our Many Hats

eLearning Designers wear many hats – some by choice, some placed upon us. Here are the hats I wear because I need these skills as an eLearning one-person shop. Those on the second list are ones placed upon me either because they are skills I can adapt my elearning skills to or because assumptions are made (e.g., you are an IT guy, right?).
  • Instructional Designer & Developer - These are the obvious ones and why most of us are hired. At many organizations these are two separate positions. However, I am responsible for both as I am a one-person workshop, which also explains much of the rest of this list. 
  • Graphics Artist - Unless you have one on staff or in the budget to hire someone, you are the project's graphic artist. You find the right graphics, make any necessary edits or create them from scratch when you can't find what you need. 
  • Copyright Expert - You need to know what you can and can't use or what you need to be citing, crediting and properly purchasing. 
  • Curator - Find that tutorial, guide, piece of knowledge at just the right time for… everyone. 
  • Social Media (SoMe) expert and Informal Learning CatalystSometimes I'm the go to guy to coach staff on utilizing SoMe or I'm the guy implementing informal/social learning. 
  • Videographer and Editor - Everything from taking and editing videos to editing videos others were nice enough to provide. Then appropriately incorporating them in courses, your Intranet, Yammer, etc. 
  • Sound Engineer and Voice Talent - Oh how I wish I had a budget for voice talent and a professional studio. With few exceptions, I am the voice talent and my basement is my studio. At least I have earned the right to call myself the Mel Blanc of my little eLearning fiefdom. 
  • LMS Admin - Although most organizations I've been with had LMS admins, their focus tended to be more on handling traditional classes managed on the LMS. That left managing eLearning courses along with enrollment, reports, troubleshooting problems on the LMS especially as they pertain to online courses to me. I have been at orgs where ALL is handling by LMS staff, which allows me to focus on course design and development. Plus, LMS staff are probably more proficient at managing the LMS tasks anyway. 
Things we probably weren't planning on being but...
  • Website Developer - I am asked to develop websites by people who don't know the difference between a website and eLearning, but that's OK. I can probably manage building a website better than most others in their network and cheaper too. Sadly, if it is at work I will refer them to the right department but somehow they often circle back and still try to convince me that I'm the "website guy."
  • Help Desk - For my team, relatives and neighbors down the street, after all "don't you work in IT or something like that?" 
  • Copyright Expert - For that yahoo who grabs whatever images, music and videos they find on the web and use them in their presentations, web pages, docs, etc. You know him, don't pretend you don't. I am the one to make these people aware of copyright law... and patiently tolerate the eye rolls. 
Did I miss anything?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

eLearning Toolbox Throwback #TBT

I started in eLearning in 2001. Although not long ago, it is light years behind us when it comes to development tools. Here are the eLearning tools I was using during my first few years in the industry.

And my LMS...

What is in your Throwback Thursday Toolbox?

Friday, May 30, 2014

Using #Infographics

For a course I am currently completing, I included an infographic. The course is an overview of a new line of business at my org. I knew that for many, especially those not directly involved in the new line, retaining detailed knowledge about it will be a challenge as time passes. So what better way to provide a refresher than an Infographic that highlights and visualizes its important features? I hope to see these printed from the course and pinned on a few office walls and hopefully passed around a bit too. 

I found creating the infographic was not as difficult as expected. I found the content was easily drawn from the course, just needed to trim the wording as to be much more concise and find ways to visualize the content. As far as tools there are quite a few; several are listed below. You can also create one from scratch using tools such as Illustrator, Photoshop or even Word. 

Here are some Infographic tools I have added to the Cloud Apps page
You can also find more at If you have any Infographic tools you recommend or advice on creating them, please share in the comments section.