Monday, November 24, 2008

Working With IT

It seems universal for e-learning staff - working with IT is a challenge. It certainly has been for me at the organizations I have worked. I do want to note that my current IT department has very talented and supportive staff. However, as with most IT departments, they are in big demand and dedicating the resources that are asked of them is challenging. That said, there are things we can do to create a more productive partnership with our IT brethren.

Know Who does What - Get to know the people in IT, each person's responsiblities and their specific expertise. When bringing IT in on a project you want to be sure you have brought in the right people, or are asking the person who can most effectively assist you.

Engage IT Staff- Do not try to just delegate tasks to IT. Just as instructional designers do not want training needs dictated to them, but want to very involved in identifying training needs, IT needs context and involvement to be successful. When you share the details of the project and its goals, they can more effectively prioritize their tasks, find solutions or alternative approaches, recognize the impact on your organization and/or customer, and provide insight not recognized by the project's core team.

Know Their Schedule and Workload - As best you can, know what projects they are already busy with and how your project may fit in with their schedule. If you must ask for unrealistic time lines, at least be cognisant of it and more than likely a reasonable compromise can be made. They will also appreciate that you understand the demands made upon their department and the investment required to assist you. Appreciation can go a long way and may even increase the effort they put into your project.

All in all, bring IT in just as you would want your own staff brought into a project, as experts and valuable consultants.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Adobe Groups


Adobe has just released Adobe Groups. Adobe Groups is an online community of Adobe User Groups around the world. My Adobe User Group Manager is attending Adobe Max and just sent out the news and link (below). Plus, he already set up our group up in the community, thank you. I just set up my profile (JeffGoldman) and browsed around a little bit. It appears it will be a great resource for collaborating within and between groups. Besides being able to join user groups and share resources and information, one can also set up a network of friends, similar to Facebook and Linked In.

I am looking forward to exploring it further.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Has Anyone Seen My SMEs?

When working with subject matter experts (SME), you must keep them involved and engaged in every step of the e-learning process. Here are some tips to accomplish this goal. 

Lay the foundation

Introducing e-learning to the SME lays the foundation of a successful collaboration. E-learning is still new to many people and many misconceptions exist. Someone not exposed to quality e-learning may think it will be a page turner, which is not good e-learning. Explain what e-learning is, when it is appropriate, and its capabilities. Suggest they look at courses already available. This will provide some reference to what they may expect in a course.


Introduce their role in the process

Inform SMEs of your expectations of them, allowing them to schedule their time and prepare for the tasks ahead. They will not just hand over some form of subject matter and that's that. They will help identify training needs, learning objectives, etc. Also explain other expectations you have of them as it relates to the different phases of the course's creation (proofing prototypes, drafts, clarifying subject matter, etc.).


Ask the right questions (Analysis)

Never assume the SME knows the training need. A needs analysis is very important. Reality is that needs analyses are often informally conducted. If a needs analysis has not been conducted by you or anyone else then it will be your job to identify the training need. And your SME will be your first resource.


Share the plan (Design)

Unless your SME has worked with an instructional designer before, a training design plan will be new to them. So, prepare them on how to interpret it and make sure you explain the difference between terminal objectives and enabling objectives. Once you and your SME have identified the appropriate objectives and agree to the design, get their approval. Remember, write your design plan to a non-training audience. You do not want to confuse them with a lot of training jargon. 


Put them to work (Development)

Keep your SME updated during the development stage. Development takes a significant amount of time and they may wonder, "Whatever happened to that e-learning designer?" Do not let SMEs forget about the project while you are busy creating it. Let them know of your progress. If possible upload what is available so far and call it a prototype. And get their feedback.


Provide detailed instructions for reviewing drafts. I also provide a checklist. They should not think they are to look at grammar or content only. Be sure they also look at the flow of the course, accuracy of questions, usability, and identify any technical problems. Also request SMEs to provide names of anyone else familiar with the subject well enough to provide useful feedback.


Market the course (Implementation)

You may release the course on your learning management system, but there is more to implementation. It must be marketed. Participation requires strong communication efforts and buy-in from supervisers. Have your SME help communicate the importance of the course. SMEs can help promote the course via e-mails, intranet announcements, employee newsletters, presentations, etc.


Is it effective? (Evaluation)

SMEs are subject matter experts because they apply the knowledge the course will teach, or work closely in some form with those applying it. Thus, they have an inside view of seeing the knowledge or skills applied and have a relationship with those applying it. This will be helpful in connecting you to the people that will provide evaluation data. SMEs can also support the process by selling the importance of working with you in evaluating the course.


In the end, effective collaboration with your SMEs will compliment your project. The key to this collaboration is keeping your SMEs informed, invested, and involved throughout the process. And always give them appropriate credit and a big thank you.


For a more in depth exploration of this topic, go to the article I published in 2006 on e-LearningGuru, Working With Your SMEs.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What is m-Learning?

As with distance learning and e-learning, m-learning encapsulates many modes of learning. A definition general enough to capture it all could be:

A distance learning event delivered, synchronously or asynchronously, via an electronic mobile device.

Granted, this definition is similar to others out there, but generic enough to include current applications that are commonly accepted as m-learning. Plus, it leaves room for those applications yet to be innovated.

If one was to accept this definition, here are the current mobile learning applications that can fall within the m-learning category:

  • SMS messaging (in the context of a class, training, etc.)

  • Online course/web based training (syncronous or asyncronous)

  • Simulations

  • Educational games

  • Just-in-time learning/job aids

  • Assessments and surveys

  • Podcasts (video or audio)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Adding Pizzazz to e-Learning Videos

I am currently working on adding short videos into a web based training course. These are approximately 2 minute videos of the subject matter experts (SMEs) who are extrapolating on the content at hand. The SMEs did a wonderful job, but...a little extra "pizzazz" would increase attention.

So here's what I did...

I imported each video into Flash and added layers above the video. In these layers I added text that emphasized key information in their presentation. Where graphics, charts, and screenshots helped, I add those too. I was very careful not to distract the learner away from the presenter, but rather highlight their message. It is also important not to obscure the presenter. In my case, I left some room above and to the sides when taking the video. This allowed me the space to have the text and images tween in and out of the canvas.

In one particular case, the SME was discussing a scenario that involved a series of numbers and calculations. By showing, and labeling, the calculations next to the SME, along with numerous animated arrows, it allows the learner much more visualization of the scenario.

The course is still in the works, but I have shown the videos to a small group and they have been received very well. I have shown these to the SMEs too, who liked them. FYI: Always show videos to SMEs early on. It is better to find out they are not happy with the results and re-shoot the video, than invest a lot of time into it something you may not use.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Network-Feedback Question

This month's question on the Learning Circuits Blog is regarding the best place to network, or receive feedback . I have used Facebook, Linked In, and I blog, but I still find that user groups, such as groups in Google and Yahoo, have been the best way to network. It is a very easy way, via e-mail, to request and receive advice, feedback, and network among peers.

Of course this is still second to meeting with people face to face, for example at conferences or workshops.

And...Congratulations Barack Obama!!!