Tag Archives: training

Outputs vs. Outcomes

“Understanding the difference between outcomes and outputs is important.

Outputs relate to what we do. Outcomes refer to what difference is there?

Outputs include:

  • Facilitating workshops
  • Delivering training
  • Developing products, curriculum and resources
  • Conducting assessments

In the past we’ve tended to focus on outputs. We are anxious to tell others what it is we do, the services we provide, how we are unique and who we serve. We’ve done a good job of describing and counting out activities and the number of people who came to them.

Now, however, we are being asked what difference does it make? This is a question about outcomes”.

The above text comes from a document that is on display in my work area (along with our Team Charter). I agree with what it’s saying but unfortunately our work unit, myself included, didn’t take much notice of it (along with the Team Charter). The report that went to our Director to summarise our activities for 2013 was full of x participants attended this course, y participants attended that course and so on.

Outputs are easy to quantify. While our team did all of the above things what difference did it make?

What value did we add to the organisation?

Outcomes are about impact. Outcomes are harder to determine. But just because it’s not easy doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to make them real. I’m not a big resolution person but given that it’s early 2014, I’d like to put more focus on the outcome this year and beyond, on making a real difference.

Does your Learning and Development department talk about and share their outcomes? I’d love to hear your examples, please share below.

Make a difference


Posted by on January 14, 2014 in Learning and Development


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Integrating Motivation with Instructional Design

As an Instructional Designer, motivating learners is an important consideration because in reality learners are not always motivated to learn. They are busy, have other things to do, don’t see the course/session as being important or have had a bad learning experience in the past. I’ve written a couple of posts about motivation – self-determination theory and the motivational pull of video games – which are about satisfying autonomy, competence and relatedness needs of learners. I’ve come across Dr John Keller’s motivational design model known as ARCS and thought it was worth sharing.

The ARCS model comprises four major factors that influence the motivation to learn – Attention, Relevance, Confidence and Satisfaction. It’s described as a problem-solving model and helps designers identify and solve specific motivational problems related to the appeal of instruction. The model was developed after a comprehensive review and synthesis of motivation concepts and research studies. Its also been validated in studies across different education levels.

John KellerDr John Keller

The four categories of motivation variables consist of sub-categories along with process questions to consider when designing:

Attention = Capturing the interest of learners, stimulating their curiosity to learn.

  • Perceptual Arousal: What can I do to capture their interest?
  • Inquiry Arousal: How can I stimulate an attitude of inquiry?
  • Variability: How can I maintain their attention?

Relevance = Meeting the personal needs/goals of the learner to affect a positive attitude.

  • Goal Orientation: How can I best meet my learner’s needs? (Do I know their needs?)
  • Motive Matching: How and when can I provide my learners with appropriate choices, responsibilities and influences?
  • Familiarity: How can I tie the instruction to the learners’ experience?

Confidence = Helping the learners believe/feel that they will succeed and control their success.

  • Learning Requirements: How can I assist in building a positive expectation for success?
  • Success Opportunities: How will the learning experience support or enhance the learners’ beliefs in their competence?
  • Personal Control: How will learners clearly know their success is based upon their efforts and abilities?

Satisfaction = Reinforcing accomplishment with rewards (internal and external).

  • Natural Consequences: How can I provide meaningful opportunities for learners to use their newly acquired knowledge/skill?
  • Positive Consequences: What will provide reinforcement to the learners’ successes?
  • Equity: How can I assist the learners in anchoring a positive feeling about their accomplishments?

The following link is to a YouTube video where Dr Keller discusses the ARCS Model, some background in its development and the addition of volition to the model.

ARCS: A Conversation with John Keller

Apart from the motivational aspects of the model, what I really like about ARCS is that it puts the learner at the centre of the design process.

After all, that’s how it should be.


Keller, J. M. (1987) Strategies for stimulating the motivation to learn. Performance and Instruction. 26 (8), 1-7.


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From Learning Outcomes to Performance Outcomes

In most, if not all e-Learning and classroom courses, one of the first things mentioned are the Learning Outcomes. After all, they’re the purpose of the course. Unfortunately, in many cases, they appear to be slapped on with very little thought put into them. Here are three that I dislike seeing:

By the end of this course, you will:

  • Understand something, or
  • Be aware of something, or
  • Know something.

The problem with these outcomes is that they are too vague. Yet they are used all too often to set the scene for an online or face-to-face learning experience. Sure, understanding, awareness and knowledge are part of the learning process. You could even argue they are learning outcomes because hopefully by the end of a course, learners will understand, be aware and know something that they didn’t know before. The problem is these outcomes don’t go far enough. How can you tell if a learner understands, is aware or knows something?

They’ll be able to DO something.

As someone who works in “Learning and Development” my goal is to change behaviour and ultimately improve the performance of the employees in my organisation. There are many ways to do this both formally and informally but focusing on what will be learned i.e. the content, its stopping short of the ultimate goal of behaviour change and performance improvement.

For example, if I’m designing a course about our organisations Code of Conduct, a learner is aware of, and knows that, the code exists – just by participating.

So, an outcome of the course isn’t really:

You’ll be able to understand the requirements of the Code of Conduct.

It’s only part of what learners are able to do. A real outcome is:

You’ll be able to make ethical decisions while working at our organisation.

See the difference? The first one is content focused – what the code says to do, where the second is performance focused – making decisions based on what the code says to do. So why don’t we call them Performance Outcomes? Surely, by moving away from the term Learning Outcomes and calling them Performance Outcomes, we can focus on the desired performance required from learners and not what content is to be covered during the course?

A performance focus should also guide us through the analysis and design of the course resulting in an improved outcome for learners who are participating and the organisation as a whole.

What’s your view?



Posted by on September 22, 2013 in Instructional Design


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25 Tips for Successful Online Course Facilitation

Concept of Hand with Electronic Fingerprints

Teaching in the online environment is quite different from teaching in the classroom and as such has a number of unique characteristics and limitations. The following guide (based on my experience as an online facilitator and learner) is designed to help you before, during and after an online teaching event.

Before the Online Course Starts:

  1. Familiarise yourself with the course delivery structure and the site/platform
  2. Develop an online delivery plan/schedule
  3. Check that all resources, activities and links work (i.e. they open in a new window), are current and relevant to the learning experience
  4. Update your contact information
  5. Contact learners, welcome them to the course and provide clear log-in instructions

At the Beginning of the Online Course:

  1. Check that learners can log-in and provide support and troubleshoot as needed
  2. Facilitate introductions and community-building activities at beginning of the course e.g. have everyone introduce themselves in a café style forum
  3. Set clear expectations
  4. Confirm contact/turnaround times
  5. Emphasise the importance of interactions and that online communication between participants is key to building community and contributes to the course outcomes, profiles, forums, chats etc.
  6. Encourage sharing of experiences

During the Online Course:

  1. Be a positive online role model
  2. Send some sort of meaningful weekly communication, but, don’t overwhelm learners
  3. Ideally respond to learner’s communication within a reasonable time frame to resolve any difficulties/queries to ensure their learning is not interrupted e.g.  phone calls, email, messaging, and forum posts
  4. Provide guidance and direction to learners when needed
  5. Encourage online communication between participants
  6. Relate to learner experiences and ask thought-provoking questions
  7. Promote learner independence/responsibility and learner collaboration
  8. Provide technical and other learner support as required
  9. Online learning can be isolated and lonely so provide positive encouragement and feedback
  10. Monitor learner progress, participation in activities and completion of assessment tasks and follow-up as required
  11. Provide informative developmental feedback

After the Online Course Finishes:

  1. Wrap-up the course, thank learners for their participation
  2. Review learner feedback and make recommendations for improvement
  3. Engage in your own self-reflection for improvement and consolidation

What are your tips for successful online course facilitation?

My list of tips was originally posted on the eLearning Industry website a few weeks ago. It’s had over 4,600 views so I thought I’d post it here as well.


Posted by on August 2, 2013 in Online Facilitation


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Is Gamification the Answer?


This post is based on a class presentation that I gave a few weeks ago as part of my educational psychology studies. My topic was ‘Video Games and Motivation’ and I looked at the research that has been done into the motivational pull of video game play and then linked this to gamification, which seems to be an increasingly popular technique being used in e-learning and other educational settings. From a personal perspective, learner motivation for e-learning is an important issue because its use in organisations is becoming more widespread.

In a TED talk on gaming, Jane McGonigal said that globally every week people spend 3 billion hours playing video games1. According to a Digital Australia report, it is estimated that by 2015 the global annual spend on video game activity will exceed $90 billion2. This is a huge amount of time and money spent playing video games. Most people who engage in video game play choose to do so voluntarily, because it is fun and they enjoy it. If people engage in activities because they enjoy them or find them interesting, then these activities are said to be intrinsically motivating. So for most, video game play must be an intrinsically motivating activity. One particular study has shown that motivation to play video games (regardless of the game type) is accounted for by how well the game satisfies our basic psychological needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness3.

As a term, gamification has existed for a few years and is defined as “the use of game design elements in non-game contexts”4. While some have interpreted gamification as turning learning experiences into games or adding games to learning experiences, the intent of gamification is not to create a game but to use elements of game design to increase motivation and encourage the learner to engage with the content. As video games involve the use of technology, it would seem that gamification would be readily adaptable to e-learning modules or virtual learning environments (VLE).

There is no prescribed list of game design elements or number of elements needed to ‘gamify’ learning but I would divide game design elements into two categories:

Mechanics of Video Games:

  • Rules/Goals: there is a defined structure and a clear set of goals
  • Challenge: there are challenges and for many, they increase in difficulty as play progresses
  • Mystery: there is an element of mystery that evokes curiosity in the player
  • Control: the player can regulate, direct or make decisions as they progress
  • Social interaction: having a social experience with other players

Aesthetics of Video Games:

  • Fantasy: an activity that is separate from real life
  • Sensory stimuli: dynamic graphics and/or sound effects to help create the fantasy world
  • Points/scoring system: received for completing parts of the game
  • Badges/Trophies: for accumulating points or completing parts of the game
  • Leaderboards: to rank players against their own performance or the performance of others

While gamification has been met with some criticism, it seems it’s more the application that’s the problem rather than the technique itself. This is because some applications have an aesthetics focus rather than a mechanics focus i.e. the balance between the two kinds of elements is weighted incorrectly. This is demonstrated by only using a scoring system or badges or leaderboards to make learning more game-like. Points and leaderboards assume that everyone likes to compete and be ranked but this is not always the case and if it’s not particularly challenging to accumulate points and badges it won’t be very motivating at all. It’s also lazy from a design perspective, as these things are easy to add-on. The mechanics of video games (while taking more time to design) allow for much more variety in terms of the learner experience. Points and badges and leaderboards will be the same from module to module but more can be done with different rules, goals, challenges, mystery and control options, which results in a different experience for each learning module.

An article that I read recently said, “the key to gamification is turning extrinsic rewards to intrinsic rewards”.  I would say that this statement is problematic because intrinsic and extrinsic rewards are so different. The intrinsic reward is your enjoyment as opposed to an extrinsic reward, which is something separate from the activity. People generally play games because they want to. People generally complete formal learning at work because they have to (it might be compliance training or to address a skill gap). These are the opposite in terms of reasons for engaging in learning. So even if the learning is gamified, will it have any effect on engagement if the learner is doing it because they have to? Also, gamification would benefit from further research into the motivational gains that should result from its use.

So, is gamification the answer to improving learner motivation when learning online? I think it could be but like all learning, it needs to be designed with the learner as the focus. The approach to gamification for a short stand-alone module would be different to a virtual learning environment (VLE). If we want to truly utilise gamification to its full potential we need to design learning experiences that satisfy basic psychological needs. I’m all for embracing new ways of doing things because they work and not because they are popular. I definitely believe that gamification a solution; it might be too early to tell if it’s the solution.

Have you used gamification in your e-learning projects? What did you do?

Can any topic area be gamified?


1 McGonigal, J. (2010) Gaming can make a better world

2 Digital Australia 2012, available at

3 Ryan, R. M., Rigby, C. S & Przybylski, A. K., (2006). The motivational pull of video games: a self-determination theory approach. Motivation and Emotion.  30, 347-364.

4 Deterding, S., Dixon, D., Khaled, R. & Nacke, L. (2011). From game design to gamefulness: defining “gamification”. In Proceedings of the 15th international Academic MindTrek Conference. 9-15.


Posted by on June 2, 2013 in Gamification


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Motivation and Learning: It’s the type, not the quantity that counts


Learner motivation in educational settings is of particular interest to me. Currently, I’m involved with two forms of e-learning. Firstly, I’m developing stand alone e-learning modules for compliance training such as ‘Work, Health and Safety’ and ‘Bullying and Harassment’. Secondly, I facilitate units (as part of a Diploma) in a virtual learning environment (VLE); in this case I’m working with Moodle. While there are many benefits of e-learning, learner motivation is an important factor to consider as it can influence the success of the learning experience.

Both these types of learning environments produce challenges in terms of learner motivation – people are required by their organisation to complete compliance training or people may study via distance education or as part of a blended program and they may complete most, if not all, of their learning online and in isolation. So, as educators, how can we motivate our learners in these environments?

Motivation has been and continues to be a widely studied area across many of life’s domains. Motivation is the energising force that initiates and sustains behaviour and ultimately produces results. Many motivation theories focus on the amount of motivation, with a larger quantity said to result in improved outcomes. However, we should not focus on generating more motivation from our learners but instead focus on creating conditions that facilitate the internalisation of motivation from within our learners. Let me explain.

As part of my studies, I’ve come across a theory of motivation that I had not seen before (and I do like it because it makes sense and has been researched and tested many times). It’s called self-determination theory (SDT) by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan and it focuses on control versus autonomy as the differentiating factor between intrinsic motivation (engaging in activities because they are enjoyable or interesting) and various forms of extrinsic motivation (activities that lead to a separable outcome).

SDT proposes that all humans require the satisfaction of three basic psychological needs, namely:

  • Autonomy (a sense of control and freedom),
  • Competence (a sense of being able to do something i.e. being competent), and
  • Relatedness (a sense of being associated or connected to others).

Contexts that satisfy these basic needs will support people’s actions, resulting in more optimal motivation and positive outcomes. Another difference with SDT and other motivation theories is that extrinsic motivation exists as four separate constructs according to the “extent to which the motivation for behaviour emanates from one’s self”.

Self-Det Theory

As can be seen in the diagram (from left to right), the types of motivation along the continuum relate to increasing levels of internalisation and regulation. Greater internalisation “is critical for effective psychological and academic functioning among students at all education levels”. So, if we can use strategies to support autonomy, competence and relatedness needs we can assist learners to internalise their motivation.

So what do these support strategies look like in practice?

In my experience and from what I’ve found from reading about motivation and learning (gamification seems to be popular at the moment), we should:

  • Give learners some level of control as they work through the module or course
  • Provide regular, meaningful feedback throughout the learning experience
  • Incorporate social elements
  • Provide opportunities for collaboration between learners
  • Keep the stakes low and allow learners to practice
  • Allow learners to make meaningful choices and pursue challenging goals

What else can we do to increase the internalisation of learner motivation? What do you do?


Deci, E. L. & Ryan, R. M. (2008) Facilitating optimal motivation and psychological well-being across life’s domains. Canadian Psychology. 49 (1), 14-23.

 Ryan, R. M. & Deci, E. L. (2000) Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: classic definitions and new directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology. 25, 54-67.

Also, check out this website for more info on self-determination:


Posted by on May 16, 2013 in Motivation


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A Blueprint for Design (part 2)

In my last post, I looked at the fundamentals of cognitive load theory. So, to assist learners in transferring information from their working memory to their long-term memory, we need to present the information in such a way that it reduces extraneous cognitive load (non-relevant items) and increases germane cognitive load (items that assist with information processing).

Several techniques can help to achieve this purpose. While many of them are relevant to technology-based instruction, but I believe they could also be adapted for classroom learning depending on the content to be learned. These effects have been studied over the years so are supported by research. Some effects apply to novice learners while others are relevant for more experienced learners. Also keep in mind that depending on the material/task to be learned, not all of the effects will apply.

Worked Example Effect: Novice learners should study worked solutions of unfamiliar problems to reduce the amount of cognitive processing. This will provide a foundation upon which they can build their expertise. So throwing learners in at the deep end isn’t a good idea.

Split-Attention Effect: This occurs when multiple sources of information must be integrated before they can be understood. For example, a diagram along with text to explain different parts of the diagram is being used; the text should be integrated or placed near to the relevant part of the diagram rather than having the learner try to move back and forth from one source of information to another.

Modality Effect: Working memory has both a visual processor and an auditory processor. As a result, using both processors can effectively expand the size of working memory if the cognitive load is distributed across both processors. This can be achieved when some information is presented visually (e.g. words and images) and other information by using sound (e.g. narration).

Redundancy Effect: Redundant information is any information not relevant to the learning experience. This effect occurs when the same information is presented in different forms e.g. narrating on-screen text or using text that repeats information contained in a diagram. It also includes using decorative pictures, background music or cartoon images that don’t add value.

Expertise Reversal Effect: As expertise increases, previously essential information becomes redundant. Including information that is needed for novice learners in courses for learners with more expertise would place higher levels of extraneous cognitive load on the experienced learners.

Guidance Fading Effect: The level of assistance provided to learners should be reduced as expertise increases. For example, instead of complete worked examples learners would be presented with partially complete problems that need to be solved.

Imagination Effect: Asking learners to imagine procedures or concepts assists with the transfer into long-term-memory. This technique should be used with learners who have sufficient experience in the area being studied (not really suitable for novice learners).

Element Interactivity Effect: Element interactivity is determined by the number of interacting elements that must be considered simultaneously in order to understand the material. More complex material is likely to have higher levels of element interactivity.

Isolated Interacting Elements effect: Where element interactivity is very high it may be too difficult for learners to understand the material because of the large amount of interacting elements i.e. working memory capacity would be exceeded. It may then be necessary to present the information as individual elements and ignore their interaction. As the individual elements have been learned, their interactions can then be emphasised.

So what do these effects mean for instructional designers and trainers?

Firstly, we need to be mindful of the processing capacity our learners and apply a learner-centred approach in the design of training materials and courses. Secondly, we should also take into account the experience level of learners and design courses accordingly. Finally, we need to strip away information that does not add value to the learning experience (this can sometimes be easier said than done!)


Efficiency in Learning: Evidence-Based Guidelines to Manage Cognitive Load (2006) by Ruth Colvin Clark, Frank Nguyen and John Sweller. Pfeiffer (publisher).

Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and Technology, (2008) 3rd ed. Chapter 31. Spector, Merrill, van Merrienboer and Driscoll (editors). Taylor and Francis Group (publisher).


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