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eLearning Blunders

Blunder: a stupid or careless mistake.

Alternative words: mistake, error, gaffe, fault, slip, oversight, inaccuracy, botch.

Bad eLearning

This post was inspired by David Anderson’s eLearning challenge: Death, Taxes and E-Learning Mistakes. The purpose of the challenge was to highlight blunders found in eLearning courses and Articulate Community members provided many great examples of what not to do.

I wanted to bring these examples together and share them here (just in case you haven’t seen the challenge). I’ve taken the blunders identified and grouped them into categories.

Layout:

Double branding of screens.

Split attention (having to combine information together to make sense of it).

‘Previous’ button on the first slide and ‘Next’ button on the last slide.

Many different backgrounds.

All slide space filled.

No contrast.

No reuse of design elements (e.g. titles are all different).

Poor positioning of screen elements.

Menu items in the wrong order.

Terrible, eye-searing colour scheme.

Timing issues e.g. characters/photos appearing on-screen at the same time, when that wasn’t the intention.

No way to exit a layer.

Being able to click on buttons on the base layer while viewing a layer.

Branding the course with company logo on every slide.

Redundant/confusing navigation.

Poor alignment of screen content.

Inconsistent use of colours.

Text:

Poor grammatical construction.

Long lines of text.

Bloated wording.

Inconsistent font types.

Spelling mistakes.

Using words that don’t actually exist.

Incorrect punctuation.

Tacky font choices (e.g. Chiller and Curlz MT).

Colour choices that make some of the text almost impossible to read.

Font choices/sizes that are difficult to read.

Too many exclamation points and ellipses.

Sizing on the bullets for bulleted lists.

Small text that is all jammed together making it hard to read.

Images:

Using decorative graphics.

Images copied from iStock and have the watermark on them.

Random, dated clip art.

Cropped characters that appear to float.

Meaningless pictures.

Images that are various styles.

Overlapping images.

Stretched images.

Audio:

Bad voiceover that fades in and out with background noise.

Monotonous tone of voice.

Poor soundtrack.

Text-to-speech narration giving the course a robotic feel.

Animation of text and objects are poorly synchronized to the audio.

Video:

Media/content that makes no sense.

General:

Repeating the same information via different modes.

URL’s that don’t work.

Closed caption that lags behind the spoken word.

Link / 404 errors.

Resources button that does not work.

No attention to detail.

Overuse of animation.

Boring content dump followed by a quiz.

Way to much instruction for how to use the course.

Default quiz and feedback slides.

Courses that are excessively long.

Elements like the Resources tab turned on even thought there are not resources.

 

Some of the Community members (including myself) put together or shared some samples that show the types of errors listed above. Click here to view them.

In a recent blog post, Jonathan Kettleborough talked about some eLearning errors that really give this form of learning a bad name. He referred to the mediocrity of some courses that he has completed because they contain errors that should have been picked up before the course was released. The post is definitely worth reading.

Many of these blunders can be overcome by a thorough quality assurance process and piloting of the course before release – maybe a checklist of items to look for would help? The others require eLearning professionals to develop their skills and knowledge into how people process information and also how to design for the online environment.

I hope that by bringing these types of blunders out into the open, we can make a conscious effort not to keep making mistakes that result in a poor user experience and generally give eLearning a bad name.

As people involved in creating eLearning, let’s eliminate blunders in our courses!

What are some eLearning blunders that you’ve come across?

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Getting Into the Swing of Using Video

I’ve recently started to play golf. It’s not the first time I’ve ever tried it, I’ve played the game a few times in the past but found it to be a frustrating experience. This time though I plan to stick with it, practice and not just rely on visualisation and thinking positive thoughts!

When I went for my first coaching session (I received four sessions as a gift), the golf pro Andrew, brought out his iPad and asked me to hit a ball while he filmed me. Then we sat down and had a look at the footage. He drew a green line on the screen to see how I was positioned as I hit the ball (which turned out to be not too bad). He was also able to break down my swing into chunks – setting up, backswing, coming down and follow through and give me pointers about each. After some time spent practicing, he filmed me again. Then we talked about how it was different.

After the session Andrew e-mailed me the following summary of what we discussed:

Set up:

1) Left thumb down the centre of the grip.

2) Right thumb relaxes over.

3) Feet together.

4) Little step with your left then big step with your right.

Swing:

1) Position 1 (as shown below).

2) Position 2 (as shown below) thumbs to the sky.

3) Position 3 (as shown below) right heel up.

Keep running through your routine over and over to achieve consistent results.

Golf

Even though you can see the direction of the ball, I can tell you that it went perfectly straight! What I find particularly useful about this approach was that it didn’t just rely on someone telling me what needed correcting but that he could show me where I needed to improve and I could also see it for myself.

Afterwards, I was thinking how this approach might be useful for workplace learning and an obvious application would be a task that requires a particular technique, for example lifting something safely. You could do something similar to what Andrew did, film a before and after with some instruction in-between along with some follow-up afterwards.

A few years ago I went to a training session on facilitation skills and one of the remarks that has stayed with me is ‘people can’t argue with their own data’. In that context it was referring to having the people in the room generate content/ideas during the session that you can come back and refer to later. Filming me as I hit a ball also provides content that I can’t argue with. I can see what I’m doing correctly and incorrectly and make the necessary adjustments with some coaching.

While you can watch others using video, say in a scenario or for compliance, it’s also possible for you to be the star of the show.

How do you use/have you used video in your workplace?

 
 

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Showing My Work #4

The Showing My Work series of posts are what I’m using to ‘narrate’ the projects that I’m working on or have developed.

In a previous post, Practice and Sharing: The Keys to Success, I talked about the two key messages from the from the iDesignX Conference and the Tom Kuhlmann and David Anderson workshops I attended in March. With this in mind, I decided that I’d make more effort to participate in David’s weekly eLearning challenges to help build my skills through practice. This post is about a recent challenge I completed and I wanted to share how I came up with my entry and what I learned along the way.

The challenge for the week was Summary and Resource Slides in Online Courses and the idea was to give some love to the very end of the course. My initial reaction was that I didn’t think that there was much you could do at all with the last screen of the course! But I went back to the challenge a few days later and looked at the entries that community members had started to post and I thought about what the summary screen represents which is the end of the course. So I started to think about things that symbolise coming to the end of something. The ideas that came to mind were – getting to the finish line of a race or a sunset ending a day or a plane that is coming into land and you have to put your seat and tray table up and stow items in the overhead locker. In the back of my mind I was also thinking about how I could make these themes work on-screen and how the learner would interact with them.

I was looking around for some graphics and more inspiration, when I came across an image of some candles and I thought that could work – as the learner ‘blows out’ a candle, a resource, some takeaway info or job aid could be displayed. That was ok but it still wasn’t quite right, it wasn’t enough. Then I thought, while the summary screen is a way to finish the course it’s also an opportunity to give learners something to take away from the module, so what about a party theme?

If it was your birthday party, you’d probably receive some presents and in this case the presents become the takeaways – resources, contact details and some additional info.

Pic 1

As you click on each present a layer appears and as the layer is closed the present disappears as it’s been ‘opened’.

Pic 2

I ended up keeping the candle idea too. Once all the candle flames are clicked on or ‘blown out’ a final layer appears indicating that it’s the end of the module.

Pic 3

Pic 4

I built my demo in Articulate Storyline on one slide and used layers and changes of state to achieve the interactivity. The images were from clipart and I created a colourful background that ties in with the party idea.

Before I went to the workshops I had seen the weekly challenges and sometimes I thought that they’re not really that relevant because when am I going to do something like that in a project? The same could be said for the above example, would you really end a module with a cake and presents?

But it’s more than that. On reflection, there were a few things I took away from this challenge:

  • I was able to apply what Tom had shown us in the workshop by taking a clipart image (the cake), separating into pieces, removing the parts I didn’t need and saving the flames as individual images.
  • I worked out that I could show a layer in Storyline once other objects were hidden (in this case, when the flames were hidden the exit button layer would appear).
  • It helped me to think about the summary screen in a way that I ordinarily wouldn’t have.
  • I was able to participate in a challenge and learn from the ideas of others in the community.

While the challenges are a bit of fun, they do provide a mechanism for practicing and improving your technical skills and developing your creative skills which is just what I need. You can also see how others approached the same challenge and what they came up with, which can lead to building on ideas or finding new ways to solve problems or to designing a part of a course in a different way from what you’d normally default to.

Maybe you can have your eLearning cake and eat it too!

See also Tom’s blog post about building better courses.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on April 14, 2014 in Show Your Work

 

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Next OzLearn Tweet Chat is on 8/4/14

OzLearn

On Tuesday 8th April at 8:00pm AEST (UTC +10hrs), @OzLearn is having its next monthly twitter chat. The topic for the chat is based on this article written especially for OzLearn by Jonathan Kettleborough (@JKettleborough):

Alignment Requires Clarity

The chat will be moderated by Tanya Lau (@TanyaLau) and the questions will be around the need for L&D to have clarity about the business in order to be aligned with the business.

To join the chat, go to Twitter at 8pm on 8/4, search for @OzLearn and join in the conversation (don’t forget to add #ozlearn to your tweets).

There is also an OzLearn LinkedIn group where you can view the Storify of the chat afterwards.

Hope you can join us for the chat!

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2014 in OzLearn

 

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Practice and Sharing: The Keys to Success

These were the two messages that stood out over three days in Sydney at the iDesignX Australian Instructional Design Conference (21st March) sponsored by B Online Learning & Articulate the eLearning Design Workshops with Tom Kuhlmann and David Anderson (22nd and 23rd March). I was fortunate to attend the sessions in Sydney last week and for me it was a dream come true to not only be in the same room as Tom and David but to hear and learn directly from them (I also got to meet them which was an incredible experience and a real highlight too).

Practice

As someone with a keen interest in learning generally, but eLearning in particular, I’m always looking to other experienced people in the learning field to find out how I can improve my own skills and knowledge. While it would be great if there was a magic pill you could swallow and voila! you’d be transformed into an eLearning whizz, the reality is that when you look at anyone who is successful in their field, the one thing they have in common is a commitment to developing their skills over a period of time. Tom and David are no exception to this. Over the years they have worked on many projects but they also make time to experiment and try new things. The speakers at iDesignX also showed that they have put in a lot of effort over the years to get to where they are today.

Tip: a good place to start practicing your eLearning skills is in David’s Weekly Challenge. You can also learn more about building great eLearning courses at Tom’s Rapid eLearning blog.

Sharing

Tom and David are role models when it comes to sharing. Their jobs at Articulate along with their travel schedule must keep them extremely busy. However, they are extremely generous with their time and have a great willingness share what they know, provide advice and help anyone who needs it. It’s something all learning professionals can learn from and do more of.

So, in the interests of sharing, here’s firstly what I took away from iDesignX (you can also check out all the tweets at #iDesignX):

“Instructional design is about crafting the appropriate learning experience. We need to reframe content so that it’s meaningful and relevant. Then we need to give learners something to think about and have them make decisions.” Tom Kuhlmann – VP Community at Articulate

“Tips when using virtual training: prepare and support participants, consider cognitive load, design for different levels of engagement, have learners interact often, support facilitators, pilot the training and test, test, test, test.” Brenda Smith – Medibank Health

“When using video in learning experiences, authenticity is very important.” Mark Parry – Parryville Media

“Clean and balance (in graphic design) creates stability and can direct learner focus.” Minh Nguyen – DEEWR “Using curation for learning design > collect, filter, evaluate, arrange, present, distribute.” Anne Bartlett-Bragg – Ripple Effect Group

“Before you gamify your eLearning course, make sure it meets the learning objectives.” Ruth McElhone – B Online Learning

“Learning experiences should be meaningful, memorable and motivating.” Ruth McElhone – B Online Learning

“Using video for manual or process tasks shows the correct way to do something.” Tony Nye – Australian Red Cross Blood Service

“Pictures clarify words and stories add context to content.” Blair Rorani – Ever Learning

BTW this is the ninja I drew during Blair’s session:

Ninja

“What makes an industry pro? Experience; Skills (practice your craft); Authority and Luck.” Tom Kuhlmann – VP Community at Articulate

“Luck is where opportunity and preparation meet.” Tom Kuhlmann – VP Community at Articulate

“You need to be proactive and look for opportunities. Sharing expertise creates opportunities.” Tom Kuhlmann – VP Community at Articulate

And from the workshops with Tom and David:

On using PowerPoint for eLearning:

PowerPoint is a really good tool to create an interactive eLearning course. While you can’t do everything that an authoring tool does, hyperlinking from one slide to another can create the feel of an eLearning course. PowerPoint is also handy for creating and editing graphics, just look at this photo frame I created using edit points and soft edges:

Photo frame

Also, what I was able to do by modifying clipart images (before on left, after on right):

Clip art 1

Clip art 2

On designing an eLearning course:

Ask yourself:

  1. What content needs to be in the course?
  2. What is the right look and feel?
  3. What is the learner supposed to do?

Be intentional, stick with a consistent design and don’t settle for defaults (colours, fonts etc.) On eLearning makeovers: Review the five common components of eLearning courses:

  1. Text – should be from the same font family
  2. Elements – the goal is unity not uniformity
  3. Colours – use colour for contrast and emphasis
  4. Background – it should contribute to the visual and not dominate
  5. People – if you use characters maintain unity

On interactivity:

Interactivity connects the user to content. There are two types of interactivity:

  • Touch – the learner interacts with the screen (by clicking, dragging or hovering)
  • Decision – the learner interacts with the content.

On Learning Objectives:

When thinking about learning objectives, ask yourself:

  • Who is the learner?
  • What is the situation?
  • What do you want them to do?
  • How can they prove it?

On building interactive eLearning:

  • Know your tools – don’t build clunky courses
  • Create relevant content
  • Use stories for learning especially if there’s a lot of content
  • Remember the 3 C’s:
    • Challenge the learner
    • Give them choices
    • Have consequences for decisions

There were at least a couple of hundred people at the conference and about 80 people each day at the workshops. If everyone incorporates just one or two of the things they learned into their eLearning courses the quality would certainly improve. But if everyone also shared what they’ve learned with others in the field, it would help to improve even more courses and contribute to building a strong community of learning professionals!

All in all it was a great three days of learning from the best in the field and also chance to meet lots of people that I’d only known via Twitter and make the physical connection. Let’s follow Tom and David’s example by practicing our skills and sharing what we know so that we can develop ourselves as well as others.

If you went to the conference and/or the workshops what did you learn and have you shared it yet?

Footnote: This post originally appeared on the B Online Learning website.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on March 27, 2014 in Instructional Design

 

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50 big ideas to change L and D

This is an amazing post from Andrew. Everyone working in the Learning and Development space should read it. Change is not always easy but it’s up to us to make it happen if we truly want to add value.

Lost and Desperate

Photo Credit: tashland via Compfight cc Photo Credit: tashland via Compfightcc

I was struck by a post on the always interesting TeachThought again yesterday.  I’ve referenced their work before and the post didn’t just impact on me; Jane Hart also saw it and in the spirit of celebrating the positive, this post is my nod to what they’ve done..

The post lists 50 ‘crazy’ ideas to change education. Some easily transfer across to workplace L&D, some not so much.

What I’ve done is use them as the basis of a new list of 50 big ideas. Our task is to take those 50 ideas and explain how and why we can/have/should make it happen. Alternatively, why they shouldn’t.

So, the big 50

  1. Make connectivity and sharing a catalyst for all learning.
  2. Stop claiming every person will be competent.
  3. Have people design their own quality criteria, and develop frameworks to help them understand how.

View original post 685 more words

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Enhancing Learning Experiences

At a recent L&D Meetup, we were talking to each other about what we’d been working on since we last caught up. A couple of friends were discussing changes to the Privacy Act and the e-learning courses that have been developed to communicate these changes to the employees in their respective workforces.

The industries I’m talking about here are finance and insurance so I’ve no doubt each of the Legal Departments have been frantically enforcing the necessary amendments to the systems/policies/procedures across each organisation. It also sounded like the e-learning modules contain everything there is to know about the privacy legislation! They were saying that there hadn’t been too much direct focus on privacy for a while but these changes had breathed some life back into the area and now it was more urgent to make people ‘aware’.

I was reflecting on this on the weekend (actually, I was vacuuming my place at the time and I was thinking about the night before) and I know these legislative/compliance type topics are generally quite dry – although it’s no excuse to blame your content  – and normally compliance means that employees will be ‘forced’ to complete the learning. So, we’re already on the back-foot because most employees won’t really want to do it to begin with. This highlighted to me two important and often neglected areas of learning design – motivating people and sustaining the learning afterwards.

Motivation

Motivation

I’ve written a couple of posts about motivation and Ryan and Dec’s self-determination theory (SDT) of motivation before. At this point feel free to do one or more of the following:

  1. Click here and here to read the previous posts.
  2. Keep reading this post for a summarised version of the previous posts and some strategies for improving motivation in e-learning.
  3. Scroll down to the Sustaining the Learning section.

Essentially, the SDT focuses on the degree in which behaviour is self-motivated and self-determined. We all have three basic psychological needs:

  • Autonomy (a sense of being in control and having freedom)
  • Competence (a sense of being able to do something), and
  • Relatedness (a desire to be associated or connected to others).

Contexts that satisfy these needs will result in more sustained motivation over time. If we apply this theory to e-learning and we use strategies to support these needs in the design of the course, we can improve learner motivation even if they are required to complete a course by their organisation.

How can this be achieved in practice?

Here are five examples, with some practical applications that I came up with:

1. Give people some control as they work through the module or course.

  • Let them choose how they navigate through the course
  • Give the option to skip parts that they already know
  • Provide opportunities to explore different parts of the course.

2. Allow people to make meaningful choices and pursue challenging goals

  • Use branching scenarios that have consequences for decisions made
  • Increase the difficulty of challenges as the person works through a topic
  • Offer rewards based on challenges completed rather than screens visited.

3. Provide opportunities for collaboration between learners

  • Get people working together on tasks/activities that help develop competence
  • Provide topic discussion areas and space to share resources or to ask questions.

4. Keep the stakes low and allow practice

  • Provide multiple opportunities to apply the material they are learning to context specific situations
  • Give them time to repeat practice activities until they succeed
  • Provide tools and aids that can be used during the course and then back on the job.

5. Provide regular, meaningful feedback throughout the learning experience

  • Let people know how they are going and where they are up to

Motivation is important in any learning experience. If we can help satisfy the psychological needs of our people, we can improve their motivation towards the course they are completing even if they have to complete it.

Sustain

Sustaining the Learning

Often when we complete an e-learning course (or classroom course, for that matter) it’s confined to a defined period of time. There may be a build up to the course but then once learners complete it, and are deemed ‘competent’ it’s back to work. Move on. They’ve been trained. The box has been ticked.

Sustaining the learning after an event, be it online or classroom, presents a real opportunity for us in L&D. All too often, in my experience, after people complete a learning event they go back to work and it’s business as usual. Surely we can do more to sustain what has been delivered and bring about some meaningful change? If we just do things once in a course, it will be forgotten if the information is not reinforced.

Last year, I read some interesting blog posts by Craig Taylor who implemented a campaign approach to compliance training in an organisation he worked for. I thought this was a wonderful idea so I floated doing something similar with our compliance program to our risk and compliance officer. It hasn’t been done before in my organisation and the good news is that I’m getting support from others and things are building (I’ll write a dedicated post about it in the next month or so).

Using social tools and creating opportunities for networking and sharing knowledge are other powerful ways that can sustain learning over the longer term. Maybe if we did this, we wouldn’t need so many courses?

How do you motivate your people towards learning and sustain it afterwards in your organisation?

 
 

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