Sunday, November 16, 2014

And the last element of #IMPS... Streamline

Streamline the content, language and course interface.

Here is where prioritizing the must, good and nice to knows pays off. 
  • That "must" content is front and center - your emphasis.
  • The “good” is still accessible but may not be up front - a bit deeper into sections, appear in interactive assets, pop-ups, etc.
  • The "Nice to knows" - We are not using up real estate on these. These are:
    • Things that people who really want to learn more - curiosity or using the info at a higher level than the target audience. 
    • Things we told the SME we would fit it in when we were compromising. 
    • Great for pop-ups, an additional resources page, links to other sites, supporting materials, social media, informal learning resources or in additional interactive elements,etc.
  • Navigation - The course does not need to be linear - especially if audience has diverse learning needs, for example they may not need all the content. This will allow them to pick and chose what may be relevant to their learning needs and not make the course unnecessarily long for them.
  • Games - Lot of content, but not thrown at you all at once and a game can simultaneously put it in context - can be more "show" not "tell."
  • Cartoons - Simple scenario showing concept that brings it home instead of in-depth explanation of the concept.
  • Use analogies - Quicker and easier to understand if has similarities to the familiar - Remember, the audience brings knowledge to the table, tap into it.
  • Job Aids – Sometimes a job aid can be a better route, especially if it is something learners have to remember specific steps and apply on a less than regular basis (e.g., a task in software application). These are also good for a "Nice to Know" task that may not apply to all – Open it if you need it. Infographics may also suffice if the content is more informative than step-by-step.
  • Grammar & Style – Don’t make them read “War & Peace!” Trim the prose down as much as possible (i.e., eliminate passive sentences, successive propositional phrases, wordiness, etc.). 
Here is a quick IMPS guide for you. A link is also available under "Jeff's Links" on the right. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Prioritize - #IMPS

The third element of IMPS is Prioritize. 
Prioritize your content into  must know,” “good to know” and “nice to know” levels.

  • Must know - Look back at your objectives - What MUST they learn to reach those objectives. That's your top level/emphasis - As newspaper journalists would say "above the fold."
  • Good to know - Those things not imperative, but still of value in accomplishing the task to be learned. Maybe not emphasized but still accessible in the course. 
  • Nice to know - They can still do the job without this info, but it has value in understanding the subject in greater depth. It can often add more context around the topic or be information that will be of value as the learners progress and grow - ongoing learning. These will be topics that may be accessible in the course, but not distracting attention away from higher priority content. 
In the next post, Streamline, I will discuss how we use the above prioritization in the course design.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Managing Stakeholders, SMEs and Design Team - #IMPS

The second 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.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Being Concise - #IMPS

I like to think I have a knack at being concise, at least when it comes to creating courses. Being concise, while retaining instructional integrity, is important in keeping your audience, knowledge transfer and retention. With that said, I thought about what I do to make courses concise and came up with the following strategy. 

I call it IMPS. Notes are added, but of course I'm keeping it short.

Identify appropriate learning objectives and exclude the extraneous objectives trying to sneak into the course.
Note: Identify the learners' needs through a solid needs analysis  - do not rely on what the stakeholders "think" they need. Remember, ask the tough questions and observe the audience. This stage usually overlaps with the next and provides a focus throughout all the stages.  

Manage stakeholder, subject matter expert and design team’s expectations - get them “on-board” with designing concise, but effective courses.
Note: They not only need to know the advantages, but need to be vested in the approach. Be prepared to explain and sell the benefits of a concise course (e.g., reducing cognitive overload, increase retention, time efficiency among staff, etc.).

Prioritize content into levels of “must know,” “good to know” and “nice to know.”
Note:  These will be crucial in the following stage when you determine what to include, how to include it or perhaps if it will be delegated to additional resources. 

Streamline the content, language and course interface.
Note: Use the prioritized levels to trim your content, present it logically and to efficiently utilize learning assets (e.g., interactions, games, visuals, analogies, infographics, etc.). Also, edit the language for succinctness and design the interface for quick and easy navigation. 

I will be writing more on this subject in future posts. Please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section - Thank you. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Serious eLearning Manifesto

Serious eLearning Manifesto Logo
I have got on-board and signed the Serious eLearning Manifesto. I believe it is a good blueprint for ensuring quality eLearning. For successful implementation, I believe it not only requires the commitment of eLearning designers, but also the support of course stakeholders and learning & development management. I am continually negotiating with the aforementioned for the time and resources needed to develop effective learning programs. So, I think it is very important to note that we must also get them on board so we can deliver eLearning that meets the manifesto's standards. Without their support it is easy to fall into the trap of cutting corners and not meeting the level of quality our learners deserve. 

Thank you Manifesto Instigators for putting it all together - you did a good job.

I encourage everyone involved in eLearning to read and consider endorsing the Serious eLearning Manifesto.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Here's a Recent Course I Made

It is a rare exception when I can publicly share one of my online courses. That is because most are on a corporate learning management system (LMS) which is only accessible to my fellow employees or they are on our Intranet, which is also inaccessible to non-staff. This course is one I created for our public site and is accessible to the world. It is a pretty straightforward course that includes scenario based learning. So far, the design appears to be working well in assisting our health care members to learn more about using their benefits, especially important due to recent benefit changes. Please use the link below to take a look at the course. 

Feel free to also visit my eLearning Screenshots Pinterest page to see some screenshots of a few other courses I've made. And of course there is the Free eLearning page which chock full of examples from others.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

There is No "PowerPoint"

So often I get a call from subject matter experts (SME) and other stakeholders regarding elearning courses asking, "Can't you just send me the PowerPoint?" My answer of "There is no PowerPoint" is usually not received well and followed by a tone of disbelief. I don't deny them a PowerPoint because they will probably compromise the instructional integrity of the courses, which is possible, or because I am selfish. It is usually because the course simply wasn't made in PowerPoint or only portions of the development process was made using PowerPoint and what they would get would be fragments of a course at best. However, when people outside of eLearning see the final product they associate it with the closest thing they are familar with in their world, which is PowerPoint. 

So, here is the deal:

Most courses are developed with tools that are not PowerPoint. For example, Captivate, Flash, ToolBook, Storyline, etc. All of which I have used and been asked to "send the PowerPoint."

Some development tools use PowerPoint as an initial interface, but it is in combination with eLearning development applications. An example I have is Articulate Studio. This can be difficulty to explain to the SME that is eager to get hold of your elusive "slides." This is especially true when they have seen you working in PowerPoint when story boarding or other early stages of development. 

So, the moral of the story is let your SMEs know up front about the development tools you will use and what deliverables can and will be provided. 

Feel free to add your comments and opinions. I'd love to hear if you have had similar experiences and how you've addressed it. Thanks. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Giving Pinterest Another Try

I started a Pinterest account quite a while ago, but my interest in it waned quickly. It really did not fill any need for me. In the last few weeks I decided to give in another try. 

So what have I been pinning? Here are the categories I have so far:
  • eLearning - I pin interesting eLearning infographics, pages, resources, etc. 
  • eLearning Screenshots - Various screens from courses I have made. Since most of what I have developed sits within a learning management system (LMS), inaccessible to non-coworkers, I thought it nice to share at some screens from a few of my favorite courses. Only a couple of courses are represented now, but more to come. 
  • Maryland History - I love local history and especially historical pics. 
  • Rhode Island - That's where I'm originally from and it's always nice to pin some pics that remind me of home. 
As you can see, I have been getting some use out of it and starting to appreciate its value. 

Happy pinning!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Do You Know What We Do? #eLearning Infographic

I was having a discussion with some fellow eLearning designers and we got deep into the complexities of working with subject matter experts (SME). Many great ideas came out of the discussion (e.g., guidelines, agreements, best methods of identifying SMEs and a lead SME, etc.). One thing I brought up was that so few SMEs realize what is involved in the process of creating elearning courses or any instruction for that matter. I mentioned that I have been wanting to create an infographic demonstrating the process of developing elearning, from inception to loading it to the LMS. It would be helpful to SMEs and the elearning designer trying to bring them into the fold... and down to reality. 

Well, one of my fellow elearning designers said, "Have you looked? There's probably already one out there." So, I looked and found the following infographic.

It is a good overview of the process of creating effective eLearning... and I'm glad they (Leanforward) added the word "effective." After all, much less is involved in developing "ineffective" learning. The times listed do have to be taken with a grain of salt. Although I think they are not too far off in many scenarios, there are many variables that affect the time involved (e.g., complexity of content, multimedia used, level of interactivity, developers skill level with development tools, etc.). The competencies and time needed for implementation, (e.g., loading to the LMS or web, testing, enrolling staff, etc.) is not addressed. Something to also consider mentioning when sharing this with your SMEs.

I think it will be a good thing to also share with anyone interested in entering the elearning field - So, they know what they are getting themselves into and the competencies they will need.

In addition to this infographic, has quite a few more eLearning infographics of interest.