eLearning Quality

written by: Dr. Greg Williams, UMBC ISD Graduate Program Director

LearningWhen I tell people that I am a college professor, they usually ask me what I teach. When I tell them that I teach instructional design and e-learning development, I often get a puzzled look from them. After explaining what instructional design is, the conversation usually turns to eLearning and quality.

Many times people tell me that they think the quality of e-learning is not good. I ask them what their experience is with e-learning. I asked if they have ever taken an e-learning class or have even taught a class, or have been part of an online class. The answer is usually no.

What they usually tell me is that they think that e-learning is simply ”not very effective”. As an educator I am interested in how people form their opinions. When I asked them how they formed their opinion about e-learning, I discover that they have very little first-hand experience with it.

Often times they will say “I heard that it is not very good” or “my friend took a course and didn’t like it”. As a student and working professional, I have literally taken hundreds of in-person courses. Guess what? Some of them weren’t very good either. I don’t think that e-learning has a corner on the market on low-quality courses.

Sound critical thinking tells us to try to get objective information about a topic. It tells us to ask questions to get to the heart of the matter. I find it interesting that in higher education some highly educated professionals who embrace the use of critical thinking, throw it out when it comes to eLearning. For some unknown reason anecdotal information seems to be good enough for some people when it comes to assessing the effectiveness of e-learning.

Let’s face it. eLearning is not for every instructor, nor is it for every student. What I do feel confident about is that e-learning will not be going away anytime soon. At some point the “e” will be dropped from the term “e-learning” and we will simply focus on what is important….the “learning” itself.

The Top Reasons Trainers and Faculty Don’t Like eLearning

eLearning can be intimidating to many because it requires us to adapt and change to a new way of teaching and learning.

Change is tough. We want progress, but not change.

eLearningeLearning requires us to change.

Change often arrives before growth.  While eLearning may be regarded as a positive change, others may dispute that. What is not in dispute is the growth of eLearning.  The Sloan Consortium has reported that over 7.1 million college students took an eLearning class in 2013.  The Association for Talent Development (formerly American Society for Training and Development) indicates that 39% of the all training for employee in 2013 was technology-based delivery.

While the growth of eLearning presents opportunities for some people, it presents many challenges for others.  Most of these challenges center around the concept of change.  As noted by Harvard business professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter, people resist change for a number of reasons.  I have encountered a number of faculty members and trainers that simply hate eLearning.  I believe that most of the issues relate to change.

Why do some learning professionals really dislike eLearning? Here are the top reasons why:

eLearning Is More Work for Me
This may be true, especially at first. It takes time to learn anything.   What many trainers and faculty members realize is that eLearning makes you rethink your whole approach to teaching and learning.  You simply can’t lecture.  Effective eLearning means that you have to redesign your course.  Additionally, it may mean that you will need to learn some new technology tools.

I Might Look Incompetent
Yes, this may be true as well.  Remember the first time you tried to ride a bike?  You probably weren’t very successful.  Now you ride a bike without even thinking about it.  I remember teaching my first online course. It certainly wasn’t the best course I’ve ever taught. What I realized was that investing the time in learning online teaching skills was worth it.

The Quality of eLearning is Poor
There are some bad courses out there.  This includes both eLearning courses, as well as in-person courses.  To generalize that the quality of eLearning is inferior is a false assumption.  Usually when I hear this argument it really is a diversionary tactic.  The real issue is that some people fear they would not be good online teachers.  The “poor quality argument” is an attempt to throw people off track, rather than addressing their real issues.

My Job May Be Threatened
Some faculty and/or trainers feel that they may lose their job if they have to teach or train online.  I think it is rare that organizations force someone to teach online in a “sink or swim” situation. Most organizations offer training and opportunities for trainers/faculty to shadow some classes.  Additionally, they can co-teach with an experienced faculty member before they teach an online class solo.

Technology is Not for Me
This is a legitimate concern. eLearning relies on technology.  Online learning is not for every teacher/trainer, nor is it for every student.  Some people who say this have not given eLearning an honest attempt, or they didn’t receive proper training.  It is amazing that when technology benefits an employee, they can learn it pretty quickly (e.g. telecommuting).  Since minimum levels of technology skills are now required by many employers, I don’t think that it is unreasonable for organizations to ask trainers or faculty to teach online.

eLearning is not going away anytime soon.  Learning professionals can choose to accept it or reject it. Given the growth of eLearning, I believe the wise choice is to embrace it.  Choosing otherwise will limit your career opportunities.

So what will you choose?

The Instructional Design Mold to Autism Training

This week’s blog entry, The Instructional Design Mold to Autism Training, was written by Vijayshree Rautela

autismThe instructional design formula, when correctly implemented, can make training for any type of target audience effective. It lays down a clear path for the instructional designer to follow right from analyzing and identifying the training need, determining what makes the audience learn best to implementing  training, and evaluating its effectiveness.

Autism and Instructional Design

My recent calling to create training for special needs children made me realize how true this really is. The focus for me has been on creating training solutions for autistic children. And I found there couldn’t be a better target audience to test the effectiveness of instructional design. What’s more it’s a perfect match – the defined structure and all the carefully outlined details and consistency in approach are some of integral elements in creating effective training for autistic children.  Here’s an audience that functions best in structure, order, and consistency. If you love to get into the psychology of your target audience and analyze what make them tick and learn, this could be a fun and self-fulfilling project.

Training for Autism

As an ‘ADDIE’ Instructional Designer, here’s how I see it working for training autistic children:

autism

autism autism3 autism4 autism5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After ADDIE, let’s look at the learner types.

It’s interesting to note that based on the learner type, the same content can be molded into different training types.

If it’s a visual learner, training could focus on visual strategies. It’s observed that visual thinking is more prominent in autistic individuals. So pictures with words and phrases describing an action or alphabet would be effective.For example, the letter A could be denoted with the picture of an apple with the alphabet printed alongside it.

For auditory learners, content could have learning strategies that are more audio-based. For example, some children may respond better if sentences, phrases, or words are sung to them. In case of kinesthetic learners, there could be more activities utilizing hands where learners get to touch and understand the objects – classroom training activities where the letters are actual plastic objects that the children can and touch and feel them to understand them.

Most autistic children have issues with motor control. If it’s online training, then using the mouse could be a problem. Touch screen commands would be more effective in this case. In fact it could be an engaging activity for learners if instructions are standardized graphics that they can consistently relate to, example: continue, back, click, select etc.

There’s usually a challenging skill or two to teach a target audience. For autistic children it is mostly social interaction. Autistic individuals are usually not social by nature and maintaining eye contact for them is a challenge. I’ve observed that autistic individuals enjoy watching shows, movies, and videos and absorbing information from them.

An interactive online training could be effective with engaging video demonstrations on social interactions that are identified as challenges for the child. The videos can be humorous, showing the “don’ts” in contrast to the “dos”. Mostly autistic children/individuals do well in learning from videos/movies that have close captioning – helps them watch and read simultaneously.

A blended learning solution could also be effective to target social interaction skills. After viewing videos and demonstrations online, there could be classroom interaction sessions where the learners get an opportunity to implement the same.

It’s important to keep in mind the behavioral issues and list of things that distract or frustrate the learners identified in the analysis stage. A group of support crew is very important to be present at this stage.

And who doesn’t love choices? When in a classroom set up, if met with opposition to perform a certain task, the strategy to offer choices that have the same learning result could work. This helps in identifying what the learner prefers to do and is also motivational.

Today there are various apps that are available to help engage and train children with autism. However, if it’s a training customized and tailor made to specific learner types and based on instructional design principles, it has better chances of effectiveness. There’s more work, but at the end of it, there sure is more fulfillment than for any other target audience to see your training solution work!

A special thanks to Vijayshree Rautela for sharing this important post on autism and instructional design with us.

Always in learning mode,
Your friends at ISDNow

You Don’t Need a Degree in Instructional Design to Get a Job

By: Dr. Greg Williams, Program Director, UMBC ISD Graduate Program

This blog article might get me fired!

ISD JobIn my position as the director of a graduate program in instructional design (OK there’s my full disclosure), I often get the question “Will this degree get me a job?” My answer is no. That response may be heresy for a college professor.

In reality, I am not sure that ANY degree guarantees you a job these days. If people truly think that a degree alone will get them a job, then they are wasting their time and their money.

Employers look at a number of things besides your education. That may include your work experience, your skills and competencies (as documented by a professional portfolio), how well you work in groups, how you solve problems, your creativity and much more. You should never overlook the importance of career tools and such as your resume, your references, your relationships within the professional community, how well they interview, etc. They too play a part in getting a job.

My academic colleagues may not like this, but everyone doesn’t need a college degree.

If people really wanted to they could get comparable knowledge on their own. They could do this by:

  • Reading and studying and practicing on their own
  • Taking appropriate professional development courses
  • Getting feedback and coaching from professional colleagues
  • Working with a mentor
  • And much more!

This might give them similar benefits that may compare to the content of a college degree. Are there exceptions to this? Of course there are! The truth is that most people don’t have the self-discipline to do this.

The older you get, your degree becomes less critical in getting a job.

As you gain experience, employers look more at your accomplishments and your body of professional work, far more than your degrees. There are some employers who use the degree as a screening tool to eliminate candidates from a large pile of applicants. However, in some workplace environments degrees are very important (higher education), while in others they are not (e.g. sales).

It is very possible that you may not need a degree at all. There are a number of people in our field (instructional design & eLearning) who are very accomplished and don’t have a degree. The difference is they have accomplishments and a body of work that showcases their skills.

As with many questions in life, the answer to this question often is “it depends”. Before you spend a lot of time and money on a degree, think about what you will put into it (time and money) compared to what you will get out of it (raise, new job, skills). In the end, you are in charge of your own career, so weigh the pros and cons carefully.

Speaking of careers, I wonder if I still have a job?

Always in learning mode,
Your friends at ISDNow

E-learning Video 101

An e-learning video can be an instructional designer’s best friend. Producing a quality e-learning video can be relatively easy. It’s readily available to a wide audience. It demonstrates skills in real time fashion. And it has an evergreen shelf life.

How to Make an E-learning Video Stand Out

Start with the end in mind. What is your goal? What do you want learners to walk away with after participating in your e-learning video? Once you understand your goal, it’s time to design using key concepts to bring out your information in a logical, organized, and visually appealing manner, a manner that will tap into your learner’s senses.

e-learning video

Tap Into the Senses with an E-learning Video

To tap into the senses, an e-learning video must engage, must stimulate, and must create a desire in the learner’s mind to understand the information you’re presenting. For this to happen, an e-learning video should be produced with a few elements in mind.

Elements of an Effective E-learning Video

Panopto Blog wrote an interesting article on Five Tips for Making a Better E-Learning Video. They shared several key concepts to help keep learners engaged. They recommended the following for e-learning videos:

  • Keep learners engaged
  • Provide learners with an environment that is interactive
  • Visually appeal to a learner’s senses through variety in color, content, and imagery
  • Demonstrate key concepts by showing instead of just telling
  • Deliver accessibility across multiple platforms
  • Offer captioning for those who are hearing impaired

Do you have tips and tricks on how to create an effective e-learning video? We’d love to hear them. Please share them in the comments below.

Always in learning mode,
Your friends at ISD Now
www.umbc.edu/isd

The ID Guru – Connie Malamed’s New App

Connie Malamed recently came out with an app, The ID Guru. Josie Whitmore So, a graduate student in UMBC’s Instructional Systems Development program, recently reviewed the app. Read her review below:

I encounter a baffling amount of ISD jargon in my day-to-day life. It’s in my books, on the discussion boards, and even in my personal life (my husband and my best friend are both Instructional Designers).

As a student with little prior experience with ISD, I’m often caught in the uncomfortable position of having to pause what I’m doing to find the right resource to define these terms and concepts. By the time I’ve paged through a few books or gone down the rabbit hole of the internet, I’ve lost my train of thought.

Luckily, I stumbled upon Connie Malamed’s new app, the ID guru, while exploring her blog, the eLearning Coach.

id-guruAvailable for both iPhone and Android phones, this app is simple, with no bells or whistles to complicate a quick, inconspicuous search. Currently, The ID Guru defines more than 470 key terms drawn from the fields of instructional design, cognitive psychology, social media, multimedia, technology and law.

Here are some other great features:

  • Want to look up a term quickly? Tap the search icon and enter the term or search alphabetically.
  • Have some time to kill and want to explore? Browse for terms by categories (Cognitive Psychology, Instructional Design, Learning Theory, Legal, Multimedia, Social Media and Technical) or simply thumb through the list.
  • Many of the terms are hyperlinked to each other which makes exploring the relationships between concepts effortless.
  • As a novice, my favorite part of the app is the little light bulb icon that shows up under a number of the definitions. This icon identifies tips from Malamed herself, so you aren’t just getting an easy to use list of terms, you’re also getting the wisdom of someone who has practiced in the field for more than 20 years.

I would love to see the next generation of this app take The ID Guru from a simple tool to a more engaging learning instrument with infographics, links to podcasts, and more insider tips. For right now, though, I definitely feel like I got my money’s worth. $2.99 is a small price to pay when it comes to feeling competent at school and with my peers. For more info on her app, visit the eLearning Coach.

Always in Learning Mode,
Your friends at ISD Now
PS Have you tried the ID GURU? Share your experience by commenting below!

3 Job Searching Tips for Instructional Technologists from the eLearning Coach

We wanted to share some job searching tips from Connie Malamed, blogger at the eLearning Coach, and a close friend of ISD Now.

elearning coachShe recently shared her podcast on “Finding a Job in Instructional Technology,” with us. In the podcast, Connie interviews Joe Fournier, Director of Instructional Design and Technology, who has hired several individuals within the field.

Joe shares 3 helpful key job searching tips for finding a job in instructional technology:

  • A Thirst for Learning: A good instructional designer often possesses a thirst for learning
  • Portfolio Power: Joe encourages instructional designers provide portfolios (particularly in an online format).
  • Bye-Bye Boilerplate: Hiring managers are looking to hire instructional designers who fit with the team and close any existing gaps. Outstanding interviewees can have a conversation with you, not regurgitate boilerplate talking points about themselves.

To hear the full podcast with job searching tips for instructional designers, click below.

https://isdnow.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/elc001.mp3

Click here to listen to the podcast “Finding a Job in Instructional Technology” in a new window.

Subscribe to Connie’s podcasts in iTunes.

Always in Learning Mode,
Your friends at ISD Now
P.S. Are you looking for a job in instructional technology? Join the UMBC ISD Career and job list-serve!