Storytelling: A Valuable Tool for Instructional Designers

Can storytelling make you a more effective designer?

Think back. Of all the things you have learned over the course of your life, how many of those lessons began with a story? It’s indisputable that human beings love to tell and consume stories but have you ever considered how valuable storytelling might be to you as an Instructional Designer?

storytelling

Storytelling is multifunctional

Stories entertain us, engage us, AND educate us.  For centuries, human beings have been using stories to transfer information from one individual to another, ensuring that we benefit from each other’s experiences.

From avoiding those delicious looking poisonous berries, to understanding why it’s important to heed your father’s warnings and not fly too close to the sun, storytelling allows learners to envision and plan for experiences they may have never lived through themselves.

Both socially and individually, we as humans live storied lives, think in narrative structures, and most often recall information in story form. For this reason, storytelling mimics the way we naturally process information and learn.

Storytelling offers great benefits to learners

Because stories both alter and impersonate how we process reality, storytelling offers designers a valuable tool for creating a safe place in which learners can explore and adapt to new content. In doing so, learners are better able to make connections between imagined and past experiences and unlearn ideas that may pose obstacles to new learning.

In the fresh new realm of the story, learners are able to open themselves up to different ways of thinking and envision the subject through another person’s eyes.

In this way, storytelling allows learners to personalize and memorize content they may have normally felt little connection to. Even dry data can benefit from a designer who knows how to harness the art of storytelling.

In her blog, “The eLearning Coach”, Connie Malamed posted an interesting four-minute video by Hans Roslings that illustrates how a topic like global health statistics can be presented in a way that truly “comes alive”.


To learn more about how to incorporate compelling stories into your design, listen to Connie Malamed’s interview Lisa Cron, author of Wired for Story. Cron offers some great insights into why stories are important to learners and common mistakes storytellers make. Listen Here: 

For more information on the brain science of storytelling and three ways you can use storytelling in everyday life, read The Science of Storytelling: Why Telling a Story is the Most Powerful Way to Activate Our Brains.

We’d like to hear from you. Do you incorporate storytelling into your design? How has it worked for you?

Always in Learning Mode,
Your friends at ISD Now

Why You Should Create Instructional Objectives

Instructional objectives help to improve learning.

Good instructional objectives are observable and measurable. They can be easily created using the ABCD method (below). For maximum effectiveness, an instructor’s course content and activities should match the course’s instructional objectives.

instructional objectivesCharacteristics of Good Instructional Objectives:

1. Identifies who should perform
2. Describes what learner is to do
3. Describes conditions learner will encounter in performing
4. Describes how well performance is to be done

ABCD Method to Create Instructional Objectives – An Example:

A: Audience – Students in Keyboarding 101
B: Behavior – Type
C. Condition – Using a PC with Microsoft Word software
D. Degree – At lease 60 words per minute, with no more than three mistakes

For a more in depth presentation on how to create instructional objectives, Dr. Greg Williams, UMBC’s ISD Program Director, has created the video tutorial below. 

Always in learning mode,
Your friends at ISDNow

Dr. Thiagi on Live Online Learning Activities

Dr. Thiagi visits UMBC

Dr. Thiagi

Dr. Thiagi

Several months back, the UMBC ISD program was lucky enough to have Dr. Thiagi (Sivasailam Thiagarajan) visit our campus to present during an ISD Now Forum.

Dr. Thiagi’s interactive presentation focused on Live Online Learning Activities.

Dr. Thiagi provided practical techniques for increasing and improving interactivity in the design of webinars, including structured sharing, interactive lectures, interactive stotytelling, instructional puzzles and jolts.

Enjoy this presentation by Dr. Thiagi on live online learning activities, in the video below.

Let us know what you think about Dr. Thiagi’s presentation.

Always in learning mode,
Your friends at ISD Now

5 Job Search Tips for ISD Professionals

Looking for some job search tips to help you land the ideal position?

Job searching is dizzying and can feel an awful lot like spinning in a circle and then taking that first wobbly step. With so many different ways to connect, it’s no wonder people feel flustered and confused as to how to best proceed. To be efficient, there are several job search tips that can help focus your game plan and help you avoid losing lots of valuable time.

job search tipsWe ran across an article written by Sanjay Sathe, founder and CEO of RiseSmart, that sums up some helpful job search tips and can help job seekers traverse the often unsettling terrain with more confidence and efficiency. To summarize his major points, he suggests to be specific, well-targeted, concise, interactive, and online.

Job Search Tip #1: Be Focused and Specific

When searching job postings, it’s easy to get lost. One way to stay on top of your search is to create a list of keywords that are specific to your area of ISD expertise and skill set. Scan postings using these keywords.

Job Search Tip #2: Use a Well-Targeted Resume

A well-written resume goes without saying, but yet, it is the one area on which people tend to fall short. A resume is a first impression. Misspell a word, forget to use punctuation, neglect to format consistently or list stuff irrelevant to the ISD position and it’s sure to hit the ‘not interested’ pile. To help make your resume stand out, ensure that it’s fully proofed and be sure to use industry and field keywords.

Job Search Tip #3: Draft a Personal Statement

Inevitably, you’re going to be asked the question, ‘so tell me a little about yourself.’ This  question warrants a thoughtful response, one that will catapult you to the top of the list, one that tells the interviewer(s) you are serious and you are the perfect candidate. Devise a concise paragraph statement to use whenever this question is asked. Have it include your strengths, unique skills, and assets you will bring to the team.

Job Search Tip #4: Become Social Media Savvy

Most every company has an online presence now. Be part of their conversation. Get involved. Read their posts. Become their fan. Follow them. Interact with them. This could very well be the front and center ticket you’ve been searching for.

Job Search Tip #5: Create an Online Portfolio

An easy and influential way to show off your ability to present information in a clear, concise, organized manner is through creating a personal website that houses everything professionally important about you. Include your resume, bio, portfolio items and contact information.

Always in learning mode,
Your friends at ISD Now

P.S. What other job search tips would you place in this list?

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.
https://isdnow.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/elc003.mp3

Always in learning mode,
Your friends at ISD Now

Design Rules for e-learning

The design rules for e-learning can vary widely.

As e-learning professionals, we want to create environments where learners can thrive. That is the worthy goal. So, which rules do we follow to achieve higher learning outcomes?

Donald Clark wrote a blog post, Mayer & Clark – 10 brilliant design rules for e-learning, based on Richard Mayer and Ruth Clark’s research on media and media mix hypotheses in online learning. In this post he describes several key areas of design and their research findings. Below we’ve summarized some of the major points.

design-rules-for-e-learningSummary of Design Rules for e-learning:

Eliminate Redundancy
It is not necessary to toss in every media mix known to mankind to bring e-learning environments to life. In fact, research shows it has the opposite effect. Too much media mix can lead to cognitive overload.

White Space is Key
Research shows that less is more. Allow for breathing room with information. To do this, be concise and thoughtful in how you lay out the content. Keep words to a minimum. Organize words using bullet points, subheads, bolded keywords and pithy paragraphs.

Audio and Animation
To help a student achieve learning, use audio along with your animation rather than text. Using text with animation can causes cognitive confusion and can impede learning.

Graphics and Text
When text is located away from its associated graphic, learning can be decreased. When the learner has to scan the screen to read text that sits apart from its graphic, their learning can be disrupted. The trick here is to keep the text close by the graphic that it is complimenting. When this is done, according to research, problem solving is increased.

Keep it Conversational
Using first-person and second-person language keeps things conversational. Keeping it in a dialogue format opens up the learning environment to one that is interactive.

Design Rules for e-learning in a nutshell

To be effective, e-learning environments need to keep a learner’s attention focused on the topic at hand, need to minimize distraction, and need to help increase cognitive connection. For a more in-depth analysis of the research conducted on this area, please visit Donald Clark’s blog.

Always in learning mode,
Your friends at ISD Now

P.S. Please share your thoughts. Which one of the design rules for e-learning do you agree with the most?

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

Video

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.

isd

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

5 Ways to Learn A New Skill

When we learn a new skill, we grow.

To grow, we have to be willing to stretch beyond what feels comfortable. Learning a new skill can intimidate many of us. Irrational fears can run around our minds and make us question if we have what it takes to push ourselves to the next level.

Getting stuck in this phase is easy. The problem with staying in this comfort zone too long is that we grow stagnant as the rest of the world develops around us. So how do we get unstuck and finally make that leap?

learn a new skillAccording to a recent article written by Amy Gallo, these are some important principles to follow to learn a new skill:

Ensure the new skill is attainable
To answer this truthfully, think about your current workload, your schedule, any outside demands and tally how much time you are willing to invest. Do you have the time required to learn a new skill? Can you commit to it wholeheartedly?

Find the method that compliments your best learning style
We all learn differently. Some prefer visual over auditory, while others learn best in a hands-on type of situation. Think back to previous times when you’ve learned new skills. Which were most effectively learned? In what type of environment did you learn it? Was it in a classroom, online, or in a one-on-one workshop? Find the system to learn a new skill that works best with your personality.

Learn from a trusted mentor
Find someone doing exactly what you want to be doing and model after him/her. Talk with this person. Ask open-ended questions that will get the conversation steering down a path that will enrich your learning experience. Shadow him. Many are willing to take others under their wing and teach them lessons that they may have worked years to learn.

Tackle one or two skills at a time
Many times we overwhelm ourselves by trying to tackle too much at once. It’s unrealistic to create too many challenging goals and expect to sustain the drive and motivation to achieve them all at once. Pick one or two actionable items, at most, and focus on them. Once you’ve mastered them, move on to the next set.

Take what you’ve learned and apply it by teaching it to others
When we learn a new skill, a great way to cement it in our brains is to put it into practice right away. A great technique to doing this is to teach someone else what you’ve learned. This action may open up new questions you have on the process and cause you to dig deeper to understand and learn it even more proficiently. It also offers you the ability to connect to action right away by illustrating the skillset to someone else.

Instructional designers can apply these tips to their personal learning goals, and keep them in mind when they’re helping others acquire new skills.

Most important THING to remember when you want to learn a new skill is to take action on it!

Always in learning mode,
Your friends at ISD Now

P.S. Let’s turn this over to you… Do you use any of the above tactics or have any additional ones when you learn a new skill?

Join us for a Complimentary Webinar on January 15, 2013

UMBC’s ISD Now Webinar Series is holding its next complimentary webinar, “Visual Language for Designers”, on January 15, 2013.

This webinar will be held from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET.

Connie-MalamedThis complimentary webinar will touch on the importance of understanding the hidden language of visuals, and how this adds to more impact.

In this lively webinar, Connie Malamed explores visual design principles that are based on cognitive science. Participants will learn about the power of
visual communication and how to use graphics to engage learners, convey meaning and facilitate retention.

Register today!

Always in learning mode,
Your friends at ISDNow

PS. Feel free to check out Connie’s website.

6 Ways to Design Effective eLearning Courses

To design effective eLearning courses, one must pay special attention to the nuances that can make or break a learning environment.

A critical component to a successful course is one that is well-designed in terms of being engaging, practical and easy to navigate. For a course to be effective, students must be interested and motivated to learn the material. With so much vying for their attention, how can we better design courses that engage and motivate our audiences?

effective-elearning

SHIFT’s eLearning Blog talks about 6 ways to design effective eLearning courses.

Effective eLearning element 1: The importance of how adults learn

The brain works hard to learn, digest, and retain information. When a student is engaged in learning, the brain steps into action and fires off all kinds of responses. A well-designed course will cater to the brain’s high functions and allow the learner to walk away with a solid bank of new information.

Effective eLearning element 2: Adding graphics to improve learning

People judge a course by how it looks. Does it appeal to their senses? Does it make them want to learn? Does it flow? Graphics should lift a course to higher learning ground by being relevant.

Effective eLearning element 3: Aligning text near relevant graphics

Seems simple, and it is! It’s also critical in helping students retain information. When appropriately displayed, the brain registers the graphic with the text and implants it in memory.

Effective eLearning element 4: Using audio to explain graphics

According to SHIFT’s blog, including audio to your courses may increase the effectiveness of the learning experience up to 80%.

Effective eLearning element 5: Keeping it real (human)

Students are human beings, not robots, so be sure you’re tapping into their emotions. Technology is great with all of its useful bells and whistles, but at the end of the day, students relate to new information best when it also taps into their senses.

Effective eLearning element 6: Avoiding distractive visuals, audio and text

Nothing spells disaster to a learning environment than distraction. Be sure the right things are standing out to students by eliminating the clutter of unnecessary visuals, audio and text.

Always in learning mode,
Your friends at ISDNow

p.s. Do you have additional elements to add? Please feel free to chime in by leaving a comment. To learn more about how to design effective eLearning Courses, read SHIFT’s eLearning Blog.