Steps to build better branching scenarios

Word Decision And Arrows

Branching scenarios are an effective way to practice decision making and demonstrate how to apply particular knowledge or skills. In saying that, there are still too many times when branching scenarios are done poorly when just a little more effort could make a huge difference.

Here are some steps to help build better branching scenarios:

1 Have clear learning objectives

An effective branching scenario has the learner practice a decision and then reinforces the behaviour that is required for success. Write clear learning objectives to make sure your branching scenarios have purpose and are reflective of the desired performance. Remember to ask your Subject Matter Expert (SME) to check if they are correct too.

2 Source content from your SME

Source the content from your SME – the questions you ask will effect whether your branching scenarios are targeted, authentic and going to make a difference. Find out the decision points, common mistakes, what the consequences of making a wrong choice could be, and what the benefits of making a right choice are.

3 Context

Typically the content of a branching scenario has at least three steps – challenge, choice and consequence. I suggest having another step – context – this is where the scene is set before jumping straight into the challenge. Context will help your learners identify with the situation and will make it easier for them to imagine making the choice in the real life situation.

branching scenario postits2

 4 Challenge

Now that your audience has the context, it’s time for a challenge. This should come from decision points sourced from your SME. It is important the challenge is both realistic to your target audience and has an appropriate level of challenge. If it is obvious what choice should be made then both your challenge and your choices will need reworking. It will be more memorable if your challenge connects and evokes an emotional response from your audience.

5 Choices that are grey and likely include common mistakes

Next is presenting the choices – how can your audience solve the challenge? Choices should be grey and not black and white – there should be the opportunity to make mistakes, with the ‘desired choice’ not being immediately obvious. In fact there could be more than one technically ‘right’ choice but the business  prefers one of the ‘right’ choices/behaviours over the other. You could present conflicts between two desired behaviours to find grey areas e.g. not giving out private information but at the same time maintaining customer service. After all life is full of grey and conflicting situations, and we want to simulate real life decisions as much as possible.

Do not design for the lowest common denominator, instead design to engage thinking.

6 Feedback that reflects reality and comes from the right source

Providing feedback is the most important part in a branching scenario yet it is often the part that’s done the worst. It can seem like it’s just tacked on at the end to placate the learner e.g. “Your answer is incorrect because you should have chosen the other option”.

The most powerful feedback is feedback that simulates the consequence of making the choice, rather than telling you about the consequence. Check in with your SME to ensure the feedback is realistic and believable and adapt as necessary.

Also think about the natural source of feedback. Would feedback come as an action, a sound, a work consequence? Does the feedback come from a person, a customer, colleague or manager?

7 Make it relatable and believable

Branching scenarios should involve imagery. Do not scrimp on this – it is relatively cheap to source quality graphics. Include images of a realistic environment (setting). Characters that look real with realistic emotions rather than stock image graphics. Use the characters and pictures to build a story within your branching scenario.

If you have text in your branching scenarios make sure the voice and tone of the text is appropriate for the scenario and your audience. Remember you can also use sounds and video to enhance your branching scenarios – the possibilities are endless.

Building better branching scenarios is not about the tool you are using to build them. Better branching scenarios are better because the design of them is better and the correct content is sourced from the SME.

I’d love to hear your techniques for building better branching scenarios, go ahead and add a comment below or follow me for more elearning tips and thoughts.

 

How can you use the Serious eLearning Manifesto?

Manifesto

Wouldn’t it be great to have a concise guide to share with your clients and stakeholders about what high quality elearning should be? Well major thought leaders – Michael Allen, Julie Dirkson, Clark Quinn and Will Thalheimer – have done just that! Together they have produced a Serious eLearning Manifesto intending to lift the quality of elearning (and learning) that is delivered in organisations. I wholeheartedly agree with characteristics and principles listed in their manifesto – http://elearningmanifesto.org/ and think it is wonderful for them to share with the learning community.

Here are three ways I can see the Serious eLearning Manifesto being used:

1.  As a quality assurance tool

You could use the manifesto as a quality assurance tool to make sure any elearning your organisation does hits the mark and is going to make a difference to performance.

2. As an influencer to raise quality

Why not use the voice of thought leaders to help influence what quality elearning should be like in your organisation (or alternatively when elearning shouldn’t be used). The elearning manifesto website is so easily sharable with stakeholders and clients. It’s great to have professional backing that is concise and without a lot of learning jargon. This way it’s not just your opinion – it’s the voice of experts in the field.

3. As a professional development tool

If you have been in the elearning game for a while most of the characteristics and supporting principles of the Serious eLearning Manifesto probably seem common sense. Why not pick a couple of points to improve on to raise the quality of your elearning design – I have! I’ve always said “the most dangerous thing for learning – is thinking you know it all already”. The eLearning Manifesto gives us the opportunity to critique our own work and find ways to improve.

How else can you see the Serious eLearning Manifesto being used? Please share your thoughts, follow me to hear more of mine.

Going beyond elearning for change

Change Management

Often in elearning and learning design we can get focused on making sure people learn the content but can easily forget about how we can motivate our audience to do something new as a result of their learning. Learning is only the first part of the puzzle, doing something different as result of that learning is where the difference is made. Not only is it important to help people learn it’s also important that they are motivated to then implement that new learning.

What sort of things do we need to consider to make sure change occurs as a result of our learning design?

1 Opportunity

Make sure there is the opportunity to put what was learnt into practice within a reasonable timeframe. This combats the forgetting curve and improves return on investment.

One time I was sent on a Microsoft Project course by a business (without requesting it) and although I appreciated the opportunity to learn about this software they might as well just have burnt the money. After the course I repeatedly queried when I would receive the software only to find out there was no budget to actually give me the software! It was a negative return on investment.

2 Business support

Just because a request has come from the business doesn’t mean the desired change is actually supported by the business. Check if there is anything working against the learning and performance outcomes of the planned learning solution. Is there already leadership and manager buy-in, will they support the change? Are targets and measures aligned to the performance outcomes? Are there sufficient processes, tools, and structures in place?

If there are things in the business working against or conflicting with the training or learning it’s likely that the benefits will be short-lived as people return to business as usual.

3 Action plan

Ask for commitment from your learners on how they will implement their learning in the workplace. No learning is useful unless it is actually applied.

This may be as simple as asking your learners to jot down (or type into your elearning course) one thing they will start doing, one thing they will keep doing, and one thing they will stop doing and the timeframes for these. Even better if their goal setting is visible to their managers. After all, if staff are given time to complete an elearning or other learning solution wouldn’t it be better if they use what they learnt…

4 Time to practice

Learning is a journey and opportunities for trial and error are important. Check if your target audience will have time to practice their new skills or knowledge on the job. Perhaps they could even be given on-the-job tasks or assignments and their managers are involved in their learning and performance improvement (this one also links back to business support).

Elearning or any type of learning design is not a magic wand for change. For any learning solution to be truly successful must take into account what happens after the learning intervention and how progression and performance improvement continues.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, why not add a comment? How do you make change happen beyond elearning?

The game of learning design

Soccer strategy

The gamification term has become popular over the last few years. Professor Werbach from Pennsylvania University defines gamification as, “the use of game elements and game design techniques in non-game contexts” (Gamification MOOC in Coursera 2015) . If you’re producing engaging elearning in my view it seems almost impossible not to be using at least some features of gamification.

I’m currently engaged in a gamification MOOC  in Coursera, although I’ve participated in other gamification MOOCs, this one in particular encouraged me to reflect about gamification in my learning/elearning design.

I have been using gamification features in teaching and instructional design long before the term became mainstream. The reason for this is that gamification and good quality learning share many of the same features and foundations.

Here is a taste of what gamification and good quality learning have in common:

A business goal and objectives

Both should start with a well defined business goal and then specific objectives for how to meet this business goal. Solutions are built to achieve the business goal and motivate certain behaviours of the target audience or players.

Engaging and fun

To make a difference in learning design or gamification it is critical that the experience is engaging, fun, and memorable. Game theory examines and breaks down what fun looks like and how solutions (both gamification and learning) can utilise the different features of fun to get results.

Motivation

Fun is important and makes life more enjoyable, but that’s not what it’s all about… it’s also about motivation. Both gamification and learning design address how the target audience (or players) can be motivated to continue the desired behaviour after the intervention has occurred. They both have strong foundations in motivational psychology to achieve better results for desired behaviour.

Practice, challenge and progression towards success

It’s not a single one off event but something more engaging. Having opportunities to practice and a sense of challenge and progression are valuable. How can you turn your learning design into an experience rather than an event?

 

Learning about gamification is a great way to refine learning design. So much scientific research has been done on motivation and how to engage people in games. Why not borrow these lessons learnt and apply them to learning design and/or other contexts.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about gamification and how it applies to learning design? Follow me to hear more.

2014 the year of the story

Top Story Concept.

In 2014 my focus was very much on creating interactive elearning and utilising the power of the story through interesting design and technologies. This showed under my five most highly viewed and popular posts for 2014. If you haven’t already, check these out:

  1. Using digital stories in elearning
  2. The awesome tool Videoscribe
  3. Rapid prototype vs storyboard
  4. Why storytelling should be part of your elearning kit
  5. 10 steps to create a digital story for elearning

These are also topics I’ve especially enjoyed blogging about. If you would like to hear more on any topic please comment to let me know. Have a wonderful 2015!

Sourcing stories fast for training

Find Story

Something I’ve learnt during my time teaching, training and undertaking instructional design is that people love to share their stories. It’s a natural drive. Why not then use stories to enhance learning and streamline your design at the same time?

As mentioned in previous posts, stories are an extremely powerful way to teach or train. But where can you source these? Do you need to come up with a story from scratch? Or do you need to spend hours working with a SME constructing stories? Surely there’s an easier way…

Well of course there is! Source your stories directly from those with the experience.

Sourcing stories directly mean they will be authentic, believable, targeted and related to your audience already.

Here’re couple of examples of when I’ve sourced stories directly and how I’ve used them.

Staff stories in speech bubbles

Within a Complaints online course, one of the learning outcomes was to identify how complaints could improve business processes and service.

For this outcome I sourced stories from different areas of the business by asking for examples of how complaints had led to business improvements in the past. I then presented these examples in speech bubbles pointing off the edge of the screen. This used minimal media due to time and budget constraints and considerations.

These stories had a powerful impact in supporting the learning outcome and they took very little effort to source and present. It also meant that I didn’t have to tell why complaints are important to a business – it was made obvious by the examples.

Staff audio stories

Stories are also great in system training to explain why things are done in a particular way and as a result how it impacts on the customer and the business.  In one situation I needed a way to explain why it was important to group related information together within the software system.

For this outcome I sourced stories from experienced staff on cases they had worked on. Explaining why information was grouped together in these cases and what the benefits of grouping the information was for both the customer and the business.

These stories were much more powerful than simply telling staff what to do. They gave context and real life examples. To present these stories I simply recorded staff telling their stories, then edited the audio and placed it directly onto the LMS (Learning Management System) course page.

Microphone with cable connected ready for an interview, singing

A fast and effective approach with minimal multimedia skills required.

What techniques do you use with integrating stories into your learning design? I’d love to hear from you…

Follow me to hear more about this and check out some of my other posts about using stories in e/learning.

Monthly inspiration – Powerful stories for change

Old Way, New Way

We all know the basics of structuring a story so it has a beginning, middle and end and some sort of plot, challenge or problem. But what is the difference between a story that misses it’s audience and a story that resoundingly connects with people enough for them to take on the story and even make changes because of it?

I’ve been inspired by Nancy Duarte’s Ted talk that simply explains common features of great communicators and how they connect and with their audience. In short Nancy explains how people are brought on a journey gradually. She idenifies a formula of flitting between the present truth and future possibility and how this toing and froing can move people towards accepting and adopting the ideas to work towards the future state of bliss.

This technique could work not only for training, it could also work for coaching conversations or even in personal situations helping someone to move forward to change.

I hope her Ted talk inspires you as much as it has me. I can think of multiple ways to use this model both for training and learning and for beyond.

View her Ted talk here:

http://www.ted.com/talks/nancy_duarte_the_secret_structure_of_great_talks

I’d love to hear your thoughts – follow me to hear more of mine.

Happy holidays – Lorraine

And the Duarte site for extra inspiration http://www.duarte.com/

Should elearning be the answer for all training?

Thinking Business Woman Making Decision Yes, No Or Maybe Isolate

Years ago I was asked to do an elearning software simulation to train on software systems. On talking to key people I found that the changes were very small, non-complex and only applied to a handful of specific people. Don’t get me wrong I think system simulations and demos are a great learning resource. However, in this case building a software simulation would have been overkill when it was only for a small change and for a very small audience.

Before committing to a solution, there are some basic questions and things I like to know first like:

  • What is the need or performance problem?
  • Is it initially a training issue or does something else need to happen first (like developing business processes)?

If it is initially a training issue then I like to know:

  • Who does it affect? What type of roles do they have in the business? How many people need the solution?
  • Will the solution need to be available for new hires or other needs in the future?
  • What possible solutions are available?
  • Is there even a capacity for elearning? e.g. what technology does the audience have access to?

I never agree on a solution straight away as I think it’s important to consider all possible solutions and then find the right solution/s to match that particular business need. I also consider whether the training needs can be met in a more effective (easier, quicker, cheaper, more sustainable or better) way?

So in some cases, elearning may not be the best solution to match the business need or performance problem.

In the case mentioned above a short simple job aid met the business need and was a quick easy solution. The audience reported back the job aid was simple to follow and they were able to use the new part of the software system correctly and with ease.

What do you think? Should elearning be the answer to all training? Please share your thoughts and follow me to get notified of new posts.

Coding individualised feedback in Storyline

Time To Learn Concept

In a recent project I wanted to give feedback that was more than just a result of a single choice selected in an elearning scenario. Instead I wanted a way that remembered an individual’s series of choices over different slides to later provide them with feedback about each choice they made. This way the learners would feel as if the feedback was specifically tailored to them. I did this by coding in Articulate Storyline.

Storyline is much easier to code in than Captivate and Lynda.com is well worth the investment to get you started.

In the Storyline example below, coding enabled me to give individualised feedback to the learner at the end of the activity – dependent on the choices they made on previous slides. The activity was to write a system (file) note and the learner received feedback once they had constructed the whole note. Unfortunately I can’t show you the final version as it’s proprietary, however, this first prototype with placeholder content should give you an idea how this individualised feedback could work.

Want to know how to replicate this? I’ve put together a guide that you can print out and takes you through the code step by step. Why not try it out yourself?

Coding individualised feedback

This code and individualised feedback design could work well for incremental activities or skills. What activities could you use this coding for? What techniques do you use to make your elearning feel more personalised?

I’d love to hear your ideas and examples, follow me to hear more of mine.

Designing Twitter activities

 

bigstock-Share-edited

 

Using Twitter as a learning tool – part 3

In my other posts I introduced using Twitter as a learning tool and how you can do this. In this post I’ll share some ideas of learning activities you could design in Twitter.

When designing Twitter activities keep in mind they should be able to be completed while your learners are on the go and therefore need to be short and simple to complete. As a guide it should take no longer than 5 minutes to complete a Twitter activity and no more than a couple of sentences of text (remember the tweet limit is 144 characters).

Research and share activities

In a previous course I designed the majority of the Twitter activities as research and share activities. These were activities where  students were asked a question and then to find examples supporting the question and tweet these.

For example a course that examines social media use in society and the advantages and disadvantages of this could pose a question such as: What situations can you find where a community has used Twitter as their primary source of information? Tweet your example using the course hash tag #……

In research and share activities it is important to remind learners to use a common hashtag so they can search and read other peoples tweets and examples as well.

If a full answer to a research question requires more than a brief sentence or two, then change the activity from a Twitter activity to something else more suitable such as a forum post.

Share opinions and thoughts

Again this type of activity starts with a question and invites learners to share their view on a question. Here’s an example below:

This technique could be used as a motivator to introduce a topic or to explore different views.

You could also tweet link to another website such as a polling website so learners can anonymously share their opinion/vote.

Interact through a mock Twitter account

Tom Kulhmann from the Rapid elearning blog gives an awesome example of how Twitter could be used by setting up mock Twitter accounts with personas from the past. It’s an old blog post but has great ideas that are still relevant now.

Follow the thought leaders

Following thought leaders is an excellent way to learn from the best. It’s primarily what I use Twitter for.

You can set up opportunities in your learning content that encourage your participants to seek and follow thought leaders in their field. This may include inviting the learners to follow a subject matter expert or lecturer of a course. It could include giving learners a list of thought leaders in the area of learning/content they are interested in or even some common hashtags that are used in their field on Twitter.

Follow-up questions after class (face-to-face or virtual class)

As well as using Twitter to motivate learners at the beginning of a topic or getting them to explore and interact with content, why not use Twitter to help reflective learning as well? Pose questions and ask for sharing after they have attended class – keep what they’ve learnt fresh in their minds. If they attended a training event you could even ask them to commit what first action they’re going to put in to place when they’re back on the job.

A school teacher told me that she regularly used Twitter to get her students to share something new they learned that day – what a great way to get students to reflect on their learning!

These are only the tip of the iceberg for the types of activities that can be done in Twitter. I’d love to hear your ideas for other types of learning activities in Twitter.

If you enjoyed this post please follow me or share it forward.