Sunday, June 29, 2008

The 'cognitive' factor of Instructional design

Training can be approached from many perspectives. Performance technologists like Stolovich, like to think of training as a strategic investment contributing to the corporate bottom line. Another perspective is to think of training as a kind of service to people. Trainers offer a service to learners intended to improve their functioning in an environment. Thus training can be thought of as a kind of help, similar to help systems in a computer environment or aid provided by a social services.
The quality of training, like help, can be judged on its effectiveness and its efficiency. To understand this perspective, think of a software company such as WordPerfect Corporation.

Let's say WordPerfect offers a support system, where users having difficulties with software can phone and get help from a specialist. WordPerfect managers can evaluate the quality of help offered in a number of ways:

a. Effectiveness-solving the customer's problem, also known as the power of the help according to Inouye (1992). Does the help work?
-Availability of help. Is there someone around who can answer the caller's question?
-Relevance to the problem at hand. Is the information provided pertinent to the customer's immediate problem?
-Understandability. Is the help clear to the user? Are the instructions executable? Is the user able to take corrective action based on the help?
b. Efficiency-the timeliness and affordability of providing the help.
-Mean time to help. How long does the customer have to wait after phoning in for assistance until their problem is satisfactorily solved? Is the help message brief and to the point?
-Cost. What are the resources needed to provide the help? What are the costs to WordPerfect? To the customer?

Each time training is offered, there is by definition some problem to be solved, some goal to be reached. Even though not all training problems are as neatly quantifiable as on-line assistance systems, there are clear implications for training design which reinforce the lessons learned from the cognitive training models above. Training is most effective when it:
--Responds to an immediate performance need. Training should seek to create "teaching moments" wherein the learner is trying to solve a problem, clearly needs assistance, and is highly receptive to assistance that will help him/her perform better.
--Seeks to meet those teaching moments with relevant, clear instructional messages and practice opportunities.
--Doesn't give too much or too little help. Excessive training wastes money, and it interferes with the learners' developing cognitive skills in detecting and learning from their own errors (Burton & Brown, 1979).
--Doesn't get in the learners' way. People spontaneously apply a set of cognitive strategies to any situation or problem. Training should work with those strategies rather than compete with them.
The additional guidelines offered below are based on our review of cognitive training models and on the literature in cognitive learning and teaching methods. The guidelines are not mutually exclusive; for example, only one guideline specifically addresses motivation, yet every guideline affects motivation. We believe that designers can make use of these or similar guidelines as they seek creative solutions to problems in the design of all kinds of training and instruction.
Foster a learning culture.

1. Offer training, within an overall culture that encourages cooperation, risk-taking, and growth.
2. Get learners' buy-in and commitment in achieving training goals.
Motivate learners.
3. Demonstrate the value of of the training to the learners and cultivate their sense of confidence in their ability to master the objectives
Make training problem-centered.
4. Draw on authentic needs and contexts; make requirements of learning tasks similar to important requirements of job tasks.
5. Encourage learners' active construction of meaning, drawing on their existing knowledge (Resnick, 1983).
6. Teach multiple learning outcomes together (Gagne & Merrill, 1990).
7. Sequence instruction so that learners can immediately benefit from what they learn by applying it to real-world tasks.
Help learners assume control of their learning.
8. Provide coaching.
9. Provide scaffolding and support in performing complex tasks.
a. Adjust tools (equipment), task, and environment.
b. Provide timely access to information and expertise.
c. Provide timely access to performance feedback.
d. Utilize group problem-solving methods.
e. Provide help only when the learner is at an impasse and only enough help for the learner to complete the task.
10. Fade support.
11. Minimize mean time to help (i.e., provide "just-in-time" training).
12. Encourage learners to reflect on their actions.
13. Encourage exploration.
14. Encourage learners to detect and learn from their errors.
Provide meaningful "practice."
15. Provide opportunities for learners to apply what they've learned in authentic contexts. If it is not feasible to practice on real tasks, provide cases or simulations.
16. Personalize practice

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Where ADDIE fails....

Many of the instructional designers still open their textbooks when they are asked to design a new course.They tend to look at ADDIE again...
Unfortunately ADDIE fails to deliver most of the time..
So what are the things an instructional designer must rely upon...???
Blending some theories of Joseph south, i would like to narrate some points here..

1. Narrative: Story has been used to bind people together in shared knowledge and understanding for thousands of years. It is arguably the first instructional strategy ever used to convey essential cultural knowledge to the rising generations. It's an essential aspect of virtually every culture on the planet. We are wired for narrative. We think in narrative, we speak in narrative, we even dream in narrative. We perceive our very existence as an unfolding narrative. We collectively pay billions of dollars to experience well-crafted (and not so well-crafted) narrative. Narrative design needs to be deeply understood and routinely practiced in our field.How many instructional designers have even heard of the field of narratology? How many designers have studied the construction of a documentary, a screenplay, a dance performance, a musical composition? We are starting to scratch the surface with our recent attention to role-play scenarios and gaming, but have far, far to go.

2. Aesthetics: Human beings respond powerfully to aesthetic design. Every decision we make, like it or not, is mediated by our subjective perceptions. The "Bottomless Soup" study done by Brian Wansink, a recent winner of the IgNoble Prize for nutrition (and also has a book on the subject, Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think) demonstrates this beautifully. And, of course, aesthetics don't only make us fat. They can relax us, orient us, inspire us, enliven us. Aesthetics are much more than the surface qualities of an object, but extend to encompass the richness of our experience, and the best applications of aesthetic design can embody and express layers of meaning in a profound, prereflective way. Patrick Parrish is starting the conversation in our field. This conversation needs to be accelerated and expanded.

3. Learner Emotion: Human beings feel, and what they feel influences their readiness to learn, their willingness to learn, how much they actually learn, and whether they will (ever) decide to learn about a particular topic again. As Russ Osguthorpe asks, "If they got an A in the class, and tell us that they never want to see that content again in their lives, have they really learned what we intended to teach them?" Emotions can work for or against learning. In order to account for emotion in our learning design, we need to know what learners are feeling before, during, and after learning experiences occur.We have a whole science devoted to measuring learning before, during, and after learning experiences and, ostensibly, ways to intervene based on what is learned from these assessments. Where is the science and technique of measuring the learners' emotions? What are the best practices of how to intervene based in what is learned? What makes us think we can teach effectively if we only know what learners know and not how they feel? How they feel about learning this topic, how they feel about their ability to learn this topic, how they feel right now in this learning session during this learning activity? Engagement is both a cognitive and an emotional experience. Can you imagine a flow experience in a learning setting that was devoid of emotion? Can you imagine an overwhelmed, bored, distracted, or anxiety-filled learner maximizing their learning?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Roles and responsibilities of a Visual Instructional designer in an academic e-learning environment

In my experience, Corporate and academic e-learning differs in many aspects. Some of them are as follows,

· Academic e learning requires a lot of concepts. They tend to focus on knowledge in the abstract: They want lots of concepts but not a huge amount of application, except to test that the learner understood the concepts. The application of the concepts tend to be abstract, such as answering questions on a test or basing new concepts on the first. The learners are not expected to immediately apply the knowledge to their lives.
The corporate clients usually want both concepts and behavior change. They want learners to be able to apply the concepts in the real world, such as determining if a cross-border financial trade they have been offered is ethical and legal.
It is because of this reason, flow and relevance becomes irrelevant at some places in case of academic background. Instructional designers from purely corporate backgrounds tend to misunderstand the same.
This is my own experience and even great instructional designer like Cathy Moore has expressed the same.
All the academic e-learning environment requires a visual instructional designer who can visualize the concepts at an ID perspective as academic e-learning material give more thrust to the visuals compared to the corporate one. Most of the corporate material will concentrate on the presentation of text and there comes the importance for the structuring of sentences more. But in an academic environment the on-screen text should be presented in such a way that it make an impact in a student’s mind, as it is a basic thing on which he should build a lot of concepts.
As corporate materials need the text animation mainly the process followed will also be different. In corporate segment visualization is mostly a simple thing compared to the content part. So presentation is done before recording the voice over. It is easy to integrate the sound afterwards. But in anycase, particularly if you are dealing with K-12 segment, you must never record the voice afterwards. It can be called a sin. The educational concepts like experiments and derivations can never be written effectively in a storyboard and very difficult to synchronize with sound. So the voice must be recorded earlier and must be synchronized effectively so that the student gets a cognitive support or re-inforcement.
Where we go wrong??
I would say that, till now we were creating assets; nothing other than that.
We all will understand that when we integrate voice for physics and chemistry files. It may not happen in mathematics. We will never be able to synchronize it effectively. Another thing is that, whoever does the animation should integrate the sound. It is a must in academic environment. Very few is smart enough to know the entire concept. Beware of that. What we were doing was to create a storyboard and throw it to the animators for animation calling for a mere visualization meeting.
Let’s analyze what happens at a visualization meeting. The ID explains the concepts???? NO... NEVER... Even though he explains there will be a huge gap in understanding those, because our content is so huge. AND YOU CAN NEVER VISUALISE DERIVATIONS AND EXPERIMENTS WITHOUT THE COMPUTER IN FRONT OF YOU i.e. YOU MUST EXPLAIN THOSE THINGS WHENEVR ANIMATORS DO IT.(Just to get an idea of this take any experiments in physics or chemistry and try running them prompting the VO).YOU CANNOT EXPECT ANY ANIMATOR DOING THIS properly..
EXPERIMENTS, DERIVATIONS, PROBLEMS ETC where there are so many highlighting and step by step procedures, which are too technical a person should be there with the animator. Here comes the role of a visual ID. Where an authoring ID should effectively write the voice over, the visual ID is responsible for making the presentation effective by choosing the proper place for on-screen text, user friendly colours, pace of the animation, effective highlighting, proper VO synchronization etc. This is the exact role of an ID in an academic elearning organization where ID acts as a bridge between education and technology. Those who manage content are also called IDs, but they are senior content writers only.
I went through many slides of our mathematics material. I really feel like having a lot of improvements, as mathematics is a subject which needs the attention of a visual ID completely. The style we use to present will depend on lot of theories which are really valid .Theories like split attention theory (explained below)
Here the diagram in the right can enhance learning compared to the diagram in the left. Theories such as cognitive load theory, colour theory, positioning theory etc. also come into picture when we do this kind of academic elearning where we present intensive study material to the user.
About my role..
Although, the importance of the flow of content cannot be forgotten, it is not the crux in a company like ours. We should concentrate on the communication with GDs. Visualization for a whole lesson should not be done at one stake. We have to concentrate on a small part. Explain it to them and be with them for each and every step. The voice also should be available. We can reduce at least 80 percent mistakes by doing so. I feel this is the best time to implement it, as we are revamping the SBs. I can be responsible for the visual presentation of the material, the on-screen text, the positioning of the images and text, the whole layout and the synchronization of voice accordingly.(Don’t mistake it with the responsibilities of animation head as he will be responsible for the animation quality).
Note: Please note that our updated SBs are also incomplete in case of animation description and on-screen text. We will get confused where we have to place the OST (These kinds of issues can be resolved utilizing a visual ID.)
I feel my services can properly be utilized if i am placed in the visualization part. (I am ready to be involved in visualization of all the subjects, giving thrust to maths and derivation, experiment parts in physics, chemistry etc.).As a part of this I have to go through the storyboard at least once and make necessary changes in OSTs accordingly-which won’t disrupt our VO recording)

Friday, June 20, 2008

To all glorified data entry operators...

Try placing an advertisement in a leading newspaper in want of IDs..the so called generation of instructional designers!!No surprise if you get hundreds of emails and phone may get it not only from cosmosexual cities like bangalore or mumbai..but even from the 'chotoos' like trivandrum and bhuvaneswar!!The callers will be mostly girls and don't get surprised if they ask you what an ID is!!But many of them pretend to be at the zenith of their instructional design knowledge..(I personally sympathise with them).They may ask you doubts about ADDIE and Dick-Carey model even though they don't know the full forms.They will stand with their nose in the air and, utilizing the helplessness of the HR manager of the company,penetrate into the large IT pool...After becoming an IT coolie,they grow bigger on their heels and and start throwing theories all around which is no way in relation with the practical learning.Most of the bigger IT companies employ these people as data entry operators and train them in checking spelling and grammar..Thanks to Bill Gates!!Thanks to Microsoft!!Thanks to Word!!
Alas!!These people cannot survive in a world with out 'word'..
When they come out and join practical companies where their stuff wis revealed,they start palpitating.During that process they try to throw whatever inside them all around ruining the whole system of the company.But as long as they remain as a glorified data entry operator, there is no ruin for the company...
So..."my dear Elearning companies...Plz beware of these hay-stuffed,glorified data entry operators who call themselves as instructional designers..."

Note: Please don't crucify me if the punctuations i used in this articles are incorrect(I put this because, for our glorified class punctuations are their bread and butter! hehe..)

Learning theories have some weaknesses too..!

Weakness -the learner may find themselves in a situation where the stimulus for the correct response does not occur, therefore the learner cannot respond. - A worker who has been conditioned to respond to a certain cue at work stops production when an anomaly occurs because they do not understand the system.
Strength - the learner is focused on a clear goal and can respond automatically to the cues of that goal. - W.W.II pilots were conditioned to react to silhouettes of enemy planes, a response which one would hope became automatic.
Weakness - the learner learns a way to accomplish a task, but it may not be the best way, or suited to the learner or the situation. For example, logging onto the internet on one computer may not be the same as logging in on another computer.
Strength - the goal is to train learners to do a task the same way to enable consistency. - Logging onto and off of a workplace computer is the same for all employees; it may be important do an exact routine to avoid problems.
Weakness - in a situation where conformity is essential divergent thinking and action may cause problems. Imagine the fun Revenue Canada would have if every person decided to report their taxes in their own way - although, there probably are some very "constructive" approaches used within the system we have.
Strength - because the learner is able to interpret multiple realities, the learner is better able to deal with real life situations. If a learner can problem solve, they may better apply their existing knowledge to a novel situation.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Juggling simplified!!!!

How to use an underwater camera case..

Why Learning Objectives?

Training programs should be designed by trainers and/or learners to achieve certain overall goals for the learner. Programs should also include various learning objectives that when reached culminate in the learner achieving the overall goals of the training program. Learners implement one or more learning strategies/methods/activities to reach learning objectives.
When designing a training plan, each learning objective should be designed and worded to the extent that others can clearly detect if the objective has been achieved or not. From reading the learning objective, readers should be able to answer the question: "What will the learner be able to do as a result of the learning activities/methods/strategies?"
As much as possible, learning objectives should also be written to be SMART (an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Acceptable to you, Realistic to achieve and Time-bound with a deadline).

Examples to Convey Nature of Well-Written Learning Objectives

To help learners understand how to design learning objectives, the following examples are offered to convey the nature of learning objectives. The examples are not meant to be offered as examples to be adopted word-for-word as learning objectives. Trainers and/or learners should design their own learning objectives to meet their overall training goals and to match their preferred strategies for learning.
(NOTE: The following learning objectives were developed by a client of mine.)

Topic: Communication
1. explain four basic principles of communication (verbal and non-verbal) and active, empathetic listening.
2.outline four barriers and bridges to communication
3. list at least four ways communication skills which encourage staff involvement will help crate a positive work environment.
Topic: Mentoring
1. explain basic job duties and standards from job description to staff
2. outline at least five specific learning goals with staff by comparing performance with job duties
3. develop a yearly plan with staff to accomplish learning needs, supervision plan and rewards
Topic: Effective coaching
1. state at least three job expectations for staff that focusing on meeting resident’s needs
2. plan five strategies to give frequent verbal and non- verbal encouragement and rewards
3. identify specific performance concerns with staff asking for possible solutions and decide together methods of measuring successful outcomes