An Experiment on Human Behavior

As Instructional Designers, it’s important to present information in a way that effectively communicates an idea, while at the same time eliciting behavior that creates momentum in applying it.

Human Behavior Examined

Can physically experiencing something cause us to act in a different way had we not experienced it?

human-behaviorIf you simply read about what it felt like to be in a car accident at high velocity speeds, would that be a strong enough deterrent for you to stop speeding? What about if you actually felt the physical pain of being in that kind of car accident? Would you be less likely to press your foot harder against that gas pedal?

A Study on Human Behavior

According to one study conducted at the Virtual Human Interaction Lab at Stanford, yes you might be. The Virtual Human Interaction Lab at Stanford conducted an interesting study on human behavior, and the effect a visceral experience has on our actions.

Julie Dirksen summed up the study and its findings in an article she wrote for Learning Solutions Magazine titled, Research for Practitioners: When It’s Not a Knowledge Problem. The study looked at the result of learning about the negative impact on deforestation of using non-recycled paper goods. It examined two groups, one experiencing the physical feelings of cutting down trees in a virtual lab setting, and the other read a vivid account of the physical act of cutting down trees.

The Findings on Human Behavior

The findings were that visceral experiences did change behavior. Dirksen admitted up front that we should be careful in making generalizations based on this one study, but it is nonetheless still interesting to see how experiencing something physically may impact our actions.

Conclusions on Human Behavior

The study concluded two significant considerations:

  • Attitude is not necessarily a predictor of behavior.
  • Active, visceral experiences may influence behavior change.

Human Behavior and Instructional Design

This study on human behavior can be an important one for instructional designers to examine because it may help fill your instructional design toolbox with more effective approaches to generating the kind of action you want your students to take.

Read more about this study.

Tell us your thoughts on this study on human behavior in the comment box below.

Always in learning mode,
Your friends at ISD Now

Experiential Learning and The Role of Video Games


“All a video game is is a set of problems that you must solve in order to win,” James Gee said in the video below. 

Gee, who has been deemed a games and learning expert is a professor of literacy studies in the department of English at Arizona State University.

The Effects of Experiential Learning

As reported in a recent Mind/Shift story, Ten Surprising Truths about Video Games and Learning, Gee believes that important brain functions, such as rules, logic and calculating are no longer relevant to modern learning.  New theories reveal that human beings learn from experiences—that our brains can store every experience we’ve ever had, and that’s what informs our learning process.  Therefore, he says, learning is a result of well-designed experiences.

Earlier this year, he spoke at the Learning and Brain Conference. During the conference, he gave a presentation on 10 truths for video games.

Gee’s 10 Truths for Video Games in Learning

Video Games:

  1. Feed the Learning Process
  2. Obviate Testing
  3. Build on Experience
  4. Redefine Teachers as Learning Designers
  5. Teach Language Through Experience
  6. Entice Kids to Love Challenges
  7. Motivate Learning
  8. Teach Problem Solving
  9. Encourage Risk-Taking
  10. Provide Valid Learning Model for Schools

The Mind/Shift story provides more details on each of these truths.

Rethinking Learning

While video games provide a perfect model for experience-based learning, it can be difficult to re-imagine traditional learning to incorporate experiences.  While instructional designers continue to evolve to meet the needs of modern learners, is the traditional model of education many schools conform to getting in the way of positives shifts in learning? Imagine the things we could do if everyone was rethinking learning.

Whether you’re a school teacher or corporate instructional designer, what are you doing to rethink learning?

Always in Learning Mode,

Your Friends at ISDNow


Scenario-Based eLearning: What it Is and Why it’s Important

Connie Malamed, blogger at the eLearning Coach, recently interviewed Ruth Colvin Clark, PhD, for a podcast that explored topics related to scenario-based e-learning.

Ruth Colvin Clark, Scenario-Based eLearning, Instructional Design, ISD, learning, elearning

Dr. Clark presenting during an ISD Now Forum event.

What is scenario-based learning?

In the podcast, Dr. Clark started off with providing a definition of what exactly a scenario is. While she said scenario-based learning has several names and definitions, she defined it as:

A pre-planned, guided inductive learning environment designed to accelerate expertise in which the learner assumes the role of an actor responding to a realistic assignment or challenge.

How can instructional designers improve scenraio-based e-learning?

During the discussion, Dr. Clark discussed the role of guidance in scenrio-based e-learning, saying that a common mistake designers make is to create scenarios that either lack guidance, or which provide too much guidance. She said one way to get started with scenario-based e-learning is to start with simple scenarios and go from there.

In the podcast, Dr. Clark shares examples and tips to help instructional designers start implementing scenario-based e-learning, or improve what they’re already doing with scenarios. Check out the full podcast below, and for a more in-depth view, read Dr. Clark’s book, Scenario-Based e-Learning.

Always in learning mode,
Your friends at ISD Now

The Future of the ISD Industry – an interview with Dr. J. Marvin Cook


Dr. Greg Williams, Director of UMBC’s Instructional Systems Development (ISD) program recently had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. J. Marvin Cook, the program’s founder, for a video series. Dr. Cook, a noted author, professor, consultant and entrepreneur, discussed a range of topics, including the UMBC graduate program in Instructional Systems Development, ISD competencies, and the future of ISD as an industry. When talking about the future, he reminded viewers how important it is to never forget the needs of an organization. He also talked about how the industry has a bright future ahead.


Dr. J. Marvin Cook, UMBC’s ISD Graduate Program Founder

ISD Professionals Should Never Forget the Needs of the Organization
Regardless of the economic conditions, businesses still have the desire to improve performance. Instructional developers can help them achieve this. Now, more than ever, instructional designers must continue to focus on the need of the organization—not just using a particular medium (say, the the latest and greatest software). Often, when asked about the future of learning (or future of anything, really), it’s easy to jump to an obvious answer: technology. While technology has clearly changed how we learn, Dr. Cook reminds us that maintaining focus on needs is still critically important.

ISD – A Bright Look Ahead for Instructional Developers 

As the economy continues to pick up, companies will continue to generate jobs, Dr. Cook pointed out. As a result, new employees will need training, creating more opportunities for those in ISD roles.

The video below includes Dr. Cook’s thoughts on the future of ISD:

View the entire video series here.

Always in Learning Mode,
Your friends at ISD Now

End of The Year Evaluation: How’d Your Training Programs do in 2012?

There are only a few weeks left in 2012. Things are about to slow down in advance of the holiday season, so hopefully you can take advantage of this time and reflect upon the learning programs you implemented over the past year. Check out David Vance’s article on Chief Learning Officer’s website on why you should measure and evaluate.

For eLearning programs specifically, Marc Rosenberg recently wrote an insightful piece on “Testing Your eLearning Strategy” on Learning Solutions Magazine’s website.  Marc points out eight questions that instructional designers can ask themselves to help determine whether or not their eLearning strategy is solid.

One of key points Marc makes is that strategy should put you ahead of trends.  In an era where technology develops at a rapid pace, waiting until everyone else is on-board is simply too late. The key, Marc says, is to “jump in, get started, and prepare for continuous improvement.”

In other words, it’s important to remain flexible. That flexibility, however, must be balanced with commitment. He says trainers must remember to also balance expectations with resources and time.

If you run eLearning programs, check out Marc’s post, and run his eight-questions past your strategy. If you’re not confident in how your strategy stands up against his test, get started on revamping things. With a fresh year on the horizon, there’s no better time to start.

Keep learning,
Your friends at ISDNow

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Join us for UMBC’s ISD Now Webinar – November 7

allison-rossettMark your calendar for November 7, 2012 at 2 p.m. EST for UMBC’s ISD Now Webinar: Mobile Devices for Learning and Performance Support


We all worry about the influence of our learning programs when our participants move out of sight and into the workplace. Mobile devices help to extend the arms and voice of the instructor into the field of play. They deliver at the moment of need, or pretty darn close to it.

Join Us and Learn:

  • What are the sweet spots for mobile learning and mobile support?
  • What is the difference between mobile learning and mobile support?
  • What are planners and sidekicks and how can they address the transfer problem?
  • Can apps help with soft skills, such as leader development?

Allison Rossett, Professor of Educational Technology at San Diego State University and in the Training magazine HRD Hall of Fame.

Dr. Greg Williams, Moderator Director and Clinical Associate Professor of Instructional Systems Development Graduate Programs, UMBC


Wednesday, November 7, 2012 ~ 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. EST

Space is limited. Reserve your Webinar seat now.

ADDIE vs. Agile

Written by: Mike Thorpe, Sr. Training Project Manager – Serco
Today it’s all about: “how fast can you get it to me?” and “how quickly can I see it?”  Thanks in part to social media and the “now” generation, clients and organizations want to see training products much faster than before. I usually get requests for prototypes or samples from clients days and weeks into the development process.

It used to be when developing learning (ILT or eLearning) all you had to know was the ADDIE (analyze, design, develop, implement and evaluate) methodology and you sat down and meticulously worked your objective to completion. For decades, the ADDIE approach to instructional design was the predominant in the field. ADDIE made it possible to manage the process of creating useful training programs systematically. But in today’s fast-paced environment, it’s showing its age, and this top-down, slower, waterfall based process doesn’t feed the need to “see it now!”

So along comes Agile, which initiated in software development and is just now starting to invade project management and instructional design in the learning and development field. The key to Agile design is the multiple, short development cycles. You develop in short pieces called Sprints, and these pieces are shared with clients and target audiences early to gain their feedback and approval. Adjustments are made throughout the design and development process rather than after development and/or implementation.

Agile gets the client or potential learner involved early in the process and can satisfy the, “see it now!” craving that today’s clients tend to have. This frequent review cycle reduces the risk of spending a lot of time creating a very polished product that ultimately isn’t very useful. Agile turns clients and potential learners into active participants throughout the design process, which makes it more likely that your solution will actually be integrated into an organization’s workflow.

Is Agile right for you and your project? Maybe or maybe not, but if you are not familiar with the Agile methodology I would suggest you start doing your research.

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A Complex Undertaking

Written by: Greg Kearsley, Ph.D.
Dr. Greg KearsleyBeing an instructional designer is a complex undertaking.  Generally speaking, I feel that Instructional design programs aren’t as effective as they could be in preparing people for this vocation. While most Instructional Design programs provide good coverage of instructional theory and the process of curriculum design,  some skills areas don’t get addressed, but are critically important for instructional designers to have. Some of these skills include:

  • Project Management – getting courses done on time and budget
  • Collaboration – successfully working with content experts
  • Management – handling organizational/management issues that affect course development
  • Environment – creating a suitable learning environment
  • Creativity – being original

As with all industries, classroom and professional settings vary greatly. Like so, instructional design activities in the academic domain are quite different than the training world (i.e., lack of performance outcomes). When key skill areas go unrecognized in the classroom,  new instructional designers lack the skills needed to be proficient, and it takes a long time to acquire these skills on the job. To ensure instructional designers are fully prepared to enter the work force, instructional design programs must consider the benefits of internships and project-based coursework, and integrate these components into curriculum.

For a longer discussion on this topic please visit this post on What Instructional Designers Really Do.

Dr. Kearsley is the director of online graduate programs at the University of New England, Adjunct Instructor in the ISD program at UMBC, and has written a number of articles and books about eLearning.

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Instructing with Infographics

Visual representations of information, data or knowledge, often referred to as infographics, have taken off in the past year. If you spend a moderate amount of time consuming online media, you probably stumble onto a few a week. Fast Company even has an “Infographic of the Day” section on its website!

Have you thought about how these visual representations of data and information can be instrumental for instruction? Tom Kuhlmann explored the topic in regards to e-Learning in his blog post a few months ago.  In his post, he provided tips for compelling infographic design, such as highlighting only the most pertinent information and color/font choice.

Now, if your Photoshop skills are lacking, and your graphic designer(s) is/are already swamped, thinking about designing a complex infographic, like the one below on Envisioning the Future of Educational Technology (click to enlarge), may make you uneasy. Relax—there are many free resources out there that can be used to create stellar infographics. Just this week, Katie Lepi, a contributor to Edudemic, outlined 10 resources for do-it-yourself infographics.

This visualization is the result of a collaboration between the design for learning experts TFE Research and emerging technology strategist Michell Zappa.

While the resources outlined in the Edudemic article may provide the same flexibility as a custom-designed graphic, why not test the waters using these resources? As blogger and consultant Chris Lema points out in his infographic on “Sticky Teaching,” 50% of our brains focus on processing visual information, after all.

How do you Incorporate Social Learning? (Do You?)

Earlier this summer, Jane Hart wrote about the “Social Workplace Learning Continuum” on her blog Learning in the Social Workplace. She proposes that the learning and development community stop thinking of formal and informal learning as complete opposites, and instead, apply the Social Workplace Learning Continuum thinking. Jane shared the following five ideologies for achieving this hybrid approach to formal and informal learning:

  1. Think “learning spaces/places,” not “training rooms”
  2. Think “social technologies” not “teaching/learning technologies”
  3. Think “activities” not “courses”
  4. Think “lite design” not “instructional design” -for organized activities
  5. Think “continuous flow of activities” not just “response to need”

Following these points will challenge instructional designers to always be thinking of ways to foster a collaborative and social learning environment, ultimately meeting the needs of  end-users whose skills with community and collaboration tools continuously evolves.

But it’s not just solely about training users to use social software or introducing them to a new community, as Jane says. Encouraging self-organization and collaboration is a critical component to truly embracing social/collaborative learning in the workplace.

To get a sense of how professionals are already integrating the Social Workplace Learning Continuum, and to gauge interest and willingness to apply this approach, Jane has launched a new survey. Head over to her blog to check it out (click “take our survey” at the bottom).

We want to know, too. How, specifically, are YOU making social collaboration part of your learning strategy? We’d love to highlight some innovative approaches in an upcoming blog post!