Wrapping up your elearning

Imagine a dear friend buying you a beautiful thoughtful gift but running out of time to wrap it and just handing it over in an old plastic grocery shopping bag. What a difference it would have made taking the time to wrap it nicely. The same goes for an elearning course – just a small amount of time and effort in thoughtful presentation and implementation makes a large difference.

Wrapped gift

Have you paid attention to how you’re going to present your course, or is it a last minute rush to just get it up and ready to go? Here are some things to consider before the delivery deadline that will make a difference to how your elearning course is received.

Communication and marketing plan

I’ve heard of wonderful asynchronous courses being developed only to find out six months down the track that hardly anyone has completed them. Often this is simply because no-one knows the course is there – a small oversight with a large impact. If you’re going to spend effort in designing and developing a course, it makes sense to spend some effort in making sure that people know it exists. Ask – how will potential participants know that a particular course is available and ready to access?

Utilise already existing communication channels in your organisation. Let potential participants know the course is available through the company intranet, bulk emails, messaging through managers or other methods relevant to your organisation. Also by using several communication channels you’re more likely to reach as many of your target audience as possible.

Everyone in your target audience should know about the course and where to access it.

Also consider how you’re going to market the course. How will you build curiosity, anticipation and motivation. How are you going to pull people in to complete the course?

Reduce barriers to accessing the course

Make the course as easy to access as possible. Reduce the amount of steps, reading, clicks, and logins required to access the course. No-one has the time or inclination these days to spend their time searching for a course, it needs to be easy to find and access.

I recently looked at a well designed course in Articultate Storyline. Unfortunately before entering this course, the LMS page provided screeds of unnecessary text and reading describing the course. I was literally bored and had turned off before even entering the course. There is no need to describe a course indepth before accessing it. Only give the minimum information necessary before the course. Your audience does not need to know all the learning objectives of the course (snore) – just how the course is relevant to them.

In summary the elearning design does not finish as soon as course design is finished. Consideration also need to be given for how the course is communicated, marketed and accessed. Remember to fully wrap up your course – it’s worth that little bit of extra effort.

To save effort and time you may also find these posts useful:

Learning objectives how to use them

Secondhand shopping for elearning

How to bake an elearning course

Pouring Cake Mixture Into Baking Tin

It occurred to me that instructional design of an elearning course has similarities to baking a cake. What parallels can you think of? What elearning skills are required to go from home baker to professional pastry chef?

Bake for your audience

First understand who you are baking for so you can choose a recipe to suit – no point on baking a nut cake for a person with a nut allergy.

Alternatively no point using lots of high definition video for a company that has little bandwidth or creating a course full of audio when your audience’s computers have no speakers. Choose tools, techniques, and an appropriate tone to match your target audience.

Keep the occasion in mind

Why are you baking a cake, is it for a birthday, a baby shower, a wedding, or something else? The purpose will inform what sort of cake you will make and how it is presented.

a chihuahua blowing out candles on a piece of cake

In elearning the why is also important. Why is an elearning course being developed? What’s the strategic purpose and the performance goal? You’ll need to know this before exploring possible solutions.

The ingredients

What and how much ingredients are needed to successfully bake your cake?

This is where we set the specific learning objectives. What are the behaviours that are required for success and how important are each of these?  Cathy Moore’s action mapping is an excellent method for sourcing both your performance goal and your learning objectives.

Content of the recipe

The baking instructions are always in order, with the equipment needed.

With an elearning course, you also need to logically chunk and sequence the content so it flows in a coherent manner. What equipment is needed to support making the content i.e. rapid elearning tools, multimedia software and equipment, project documentation.

Final checks before baking

Review the recipe. Do you have everything you need?

woman cook reading recipes book, isolated on white

Check your proposed solution with your stakeholders and and adjust the solution to ensure there is agreement on what the end result will be.

Baking your cake

Put your cake in the oven, set timer, watch for quality. Use a skewer to test.

Begin developing your storyboards, prototypes and drafts. Watch project time frames, quality and budget. Put your elearning course through a review, testing, and sign-off process so you know when it’s fully completed.

Taste testing

Second and third opinions are invaluable.

Closeup of woman eating chocolate cupcake

Pilot your elearning course with a small group of your target audience. Does it work how it’s intended? Do any adjustments need to be made before sending a completed course out to the wider audience?

Eating the cake

Mmmmm…. my favourite part!

How do you know your course has hit the mark, what are you using to assess success?

This post by no means includes everything about baking a cake or making an elearning course. Unfortunately it’s not a ‘piece of cake’ otherwise everyone would be producing results like this:

Final Touch Ups On Ruffled Wedding Cake

Like anything, producing high quality elearning courses takes practice.

If you found this post interesting, click on the links below to read some related posts:

Why storytelling should be part of your elearning toolkit

Performing an elearning makeover

In the meantime, I might just have a piece of cake, mmmmm….

How to use Twitter as a learning tool

Ostersund, Sweden - April 13, 2014: Twitter website under a magn

Using Twitter as a learning tool – part 2

First it’s important to mention Twitter is easy to incorporate as a learning tool. In fact the hardest part was going through and getting faculty approval. Actually incorporating it into the course design as one of the learning tools was easy, low effort, no cost, and intuitive (Using Twitter as a learning tool – part 1).

Here are three steps to complete before designing Twitter activities in a course:

1. Get familiar with Twitter yourself

If you aren’t a regular user of Twitter do some background research to understand how the tool works. Here I’ve tweeted a website that I found particularly useful:

2. Inform students you’re using Twitter

Tell students that Twitter will be used to complete some of the learning activities. You do not need to teach students how to use Twitter just source some beginning starter videos and website links so they can get themselves familiar with it. There are lots of videos about Twitter on Youtube, here’s an example of one:

 

3. Explain the Twitter conditions specific to the course

There are two important conditions students needed to know to participate in Twitter activities successfully.

  1. The first was how to identify the course teacher’s tweets and receive current news and examples from the teacher. To meet this first condition we opened a Twitter account for faculty to use specifically for this course. We chose a relevant username/twitter handle so the teacher could be easily identified. For example, “@universitycoursename” – not a teacher’s personal name. By not having the teacher’s name it also meant that other faculty members could tweet under the same twitter handle in the future if desired. The students were advised to follow the teacher’s twitter handle to receive course updates and current examples related to course content.
  2. The second condition was how the students could allow the teacher and other students to find their tweets. For this condition we asked students to include a course and cohort specific hashtag in each of their tweets, for example, “#unicourse2014″. This meant that their tweets could be searched by either course lecturers or their peers. In each Twitter activity students were reminded to use the course specific hashtag.

Once you have completed these three steps then it’s time to start looking at how Twitter activities can be regularly incorporated within the course content. My next post in this series will describe how I incorporated Twitter into the course activities and other possibilities for using Twitter in activities. You can read my previous Twitter post here or follow me on Madelearningdesigns.com to get notified when new posts are available (approximately 2/3 times per month).

You may also find these posts interesting:

Monthly inspiration – Brain Rules 

Using digital stories in elearning

Secondhand shopping for elearning

Monthly inspiration – Brain Rules

Brain power

As well as learning new things, I also find it useful to revisit previous things I’ve learnt to keep them fresh in my mind. At university I studied Neuropsychology which introduced me to the power of the brain over our behaviours and choices. This month I’ve been revisiting the power of the brain and its affect on how we learn by reading John Medina’s book  – Brain Rules.

If you haven’t read this book I highly recommended it. It is extremely relevant to anyone working in the learning and development field. If you have already read it then you’ll believe me when I say I’m getting even more out of it by reading it again.

Here’s some of the gems I’ve got out of the book this time:

From Brain Rule #4 – We don’t pay attention to boring things

Grabbing attention and engaging your audience’s emotions is critical for your elearning to have any effect. John Medina states that engaging emotions is critical for remembering: “the brain remembers the emotional components of an experience better than any other aspect”.

Surprised Lady

So what does this mean for elearning practice? Engage peoples emotions, surprise them, use humour, intrigue them, present something unexpected, use stories they can relate to – create a memorable experience – grab their attention!! Whatever you do, do not provide a boring list of facts and figures or screeds of factual text.

The brain needs a break

Under the same attention rule John Medina writes about the brain needing a break. He states “The most common communication mistakes? Relating too much information, with not enough time devoted to connecting the dots (p 88)”.

So what does this mean for elearning? It means less content is more learning. Focus only on the content your learners really need, leave out all the nice to know stuff and big winded explanations. Focus only what they need to be able to do and cover this well by making it make sense – connect the dots.

From Brain Rule #6 – Remember to repeat

You probably already know that repetition and practice is key for learning and transferring information from the short-term (or working memory) into the longterm memory. Why then are so many elearning courses treated as one off events? What are some ways that we can build repetition into our elearning courses to prevent the learning from being lost?

Below I give some simple suggestions of how you can incorporate repetition into elearning:

1. Connect to previous experience

Encourage your learners to connect with their previous related experiences as these are already in their long-term memory.That way there is already an anchor point for the brain to attach the new learning. This makes it easier to store new information/learning.

2. Schedule introducing new content, activities, and practice over a period of time

“The way to make long-term memory more reliable is to incorporate new information gradually and repeat it in timed intervals (p 147).” Deliver elearning and activities in bite size pieces over a period of time, repeat content by providing different activities and interactions with the content. This transforms the solution from a single “elearning event” to a learning process.

3. Revisit content

“A great deal of research shows that thinking or talking about an event immediately after it has occurred enhances memory for that event, even when accounting for differences in type of memory (p 131).” In the training classroom after an activity there is usually a debrief/discussion session. This can also be applied to elearning or blended solutions. Why not incorporate opportunities for your audience to both reflect on the content and to discuss the content with others? Invite them to discuss with managers, colleagues or like minded people.

Revisiting John Medina’s Brain Rules book brought neuroscience and learning back to the top of my mind, I hope it did this for you too.

Want to receive updates on this and other topics, click on the follow me button, I post new blogs 2/3 times a month.

Reference

Medina, J (2009)  Brain Rules, 12 principles for surviving and thriving at work, home and school.

Using Twitter as a learning tool

Brussels - March 03: Twitter Hit By Hackers.

Twitter is a powerful social media tool used for micro-blogging and social networking. Google the stats of Twitter use and you will see numbers in the millions and billions. Twitter is hugely successful as it enables users to disseminate information quickly and easily through Tweets. It also makes searching for content easy through user generated #hashtags.

Twitter is easy to access, simple to use and it is a powerful tool to include in your elearning toolkit. In fact it may come as no surprise that Twitter has been voted the top learning tool for 5 years running by Jane Hart’s Top 100 Tools for learning.

So why might you want to use Twitter as a learning tool?

Let me share 5 reasons why I chose to implement Twitter in a distance university course I was recently involved in:

1. Relevance to the content

The course I was tasked with designing included the impacts of social media as one of it’s key topic areas. Therefore it made sense to actually utilise Social Media within the instructional design of the course – walking the talk.

2. Bring current events into the content 

The subject matter of this particular course was rapidly developing where reference to current events and new technology developments were important. Twitter research activities provided an avenue in which I could pull very current events and technology developments into the course content without having to constantly rewrite the content each year or two.

Twitter is great for linking to current events or examples within a subject.

3. Access and mobility

Twitter phone

Twitter is extremely mobile meaning that students can utilise Twitter on their smartphones and complete activities while on the go. This meant the Twitter learning activities could go to where the students are – mobile learning – rather than forcing them to access the learning through a static computer.

4. Bite sized efforts

All Twitter activities were designed to be completed rapidly within 5 – 10 minutes max. This meant that these activities could be completed in small bite sized efforts and provided an interesting alternative to posting in a forum or other activities. It also invited students to engage with content in a different manner.

5. Curation of content

By using a unique #hashtag for each student cohort, students could potentially search tweets by other previous student cohorts and share information, resources and references. This increased the possibility of a community of learning being built over time that goes beyond the course timeframes and boundaries.

Students could also use Twitter to ‘favourite’ and curate their own content to use within their assignments and assessments.

The lecturer could also curate Tweets and use Tweets over the course to share student generated content – social learning.

In summary, here I’ve given 5 reasons why I used Twitter in a particular university course. Twitter can also be used in other environments for different types of learning experiences. There are many reasons why you might consider using Twitter as part of your learning toolkit, some may or may not be the same as mine.

Have you used Twitter as a learning tool? Please share your reasons for using Twitter in the comments below, or you can Tweet them to me @LoMinister. If you are interested in different elearning methods or want to read more about how I’ve used Twitter in activities you can also follow me on my blog – www.madelearningdesigns.com.

Below are some other posts you might find interesting

Secondhand shopping for elearning

Why story telling should be part of your elearning toolkit

Monthly inspiration – learning from leaders

Motivational Background

This month I’ve taken more time than usual to invest in my own learning and professional development. I’ve been learning from leaders in the field to fast forward my skills, knowledge and performance.

Here are some ways I learnt from leaders this month, that could also be relevant to your professional development:

Connect with leaders in the field

Take opportunities to connect with leaders in your field, there’s reasons why they’re successful – they have a lot to share and they’ve got where they are by sharing with others.

This month I was lucky to have the opportunity to learn more about learning technologies and the future of learning from thought leader Nigel Paine.

Here I interview Nigel about some of his views on Social Media:

You can see Nigel talk about other topics relevant to learning technologies here, he also has a wonderful new book out that you can order.

Nigel's book

Invest in quality courses in your field of interest

I’ve also been learning how to adapt my design strategies for virtual classrooms, an effective but under utilised (or absent) delivery mechanism in many New Zealand organisations.

I’ve just completed a ‘Design and Development of Virtual Classroom Training Advanced’ course through The eLearning Guild that was very high quality – I recommend it to anyone who is interested in either designing for or facilitating virtual classrooms. I believe completing this course fast-forwarded the quality of my design for virtual classroom environments by at least 1- 2 years – the course was cheap in comparison.

It’s well worth it to learn from the leaders in your field. Find out who has the expertise in what you want to learn – connect with them -and invest in your learning.

Second hand shopping for elearning

Hand pushing virtual search bar

I have a passion for secondhand shopping. I often find useful, quality, beautiful items discarded by previous owners just waiting for me to breathe life back into them. The same goes with content that already exists in places like the internet.

Once the learning objectives for a course are sorted, I start hunting for what exists already so I don’t have to create everything from new. One of my favourite places to secondhand shop for content is YouTube. There are millions of videos on YouTube, most without copyright conditions, and some very high quality that would take hours to develop.

When I find relevant content this doesn’t mean my development and instructional design is done for me – I now need to think of how to utilise it. Is it pre-course work or a motivator? Will it be used to introduce a point, emphasise a point, tell a story, will it be used as an activity starter, or even as a summary? There are a multitude of ways to use already existing content.

When using ‘second hand’ content always keep copyright in mind. Check if the resource has copyright on it – most YouTube videos are fine but a few do have copyright or viewing conditions. Acknowledge the source, this may be as simple as making sure the original source can be tracked back. Look at the embedded videos later in this post you will see you can track them all back to YouTube where they were originally uploaded.

Below are a couple of examples of my latest secondhand content finds. For each of these videos I designed an activity around it that directly related to the learning objectives of the course. Imagine the time it would have taken to create each of these from scratch.

This video supported a learning objective about information overload:

This video supported a learning objective around advantages and disadvantages for ICT information sharing:

Do you partake in secondhand content shopping? What strategies do you use for re-purposing other people’s content?

You may also find these blog posts of interest or click follow to see more of my posts:

Writing learning objectives how to use them

No-one likes a cheat!