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Top 5 eLearning Skills for 2011 – A Follow-Up March 7, 2011

Posted by kevinthorn in eLearning, Theory.
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26 comments

eLearning Weekly welcomes our newest contributor, Kevin Thorn.

Following up on last week’s post titled, “Top 5 Skills for eLearning in 2011,” I’d like to explore this at a different angle. We could go two ways with this: Brand new to the eLearning industry, or a seasoned veteran honing their skills. The comments generated from the original post focused a lot on why Instructional Design was not included in the top 5, so let’s start there with three key points:

  1. Instructional Design is not eLearning Design. Whether you are formally trained in Instructional Design or you have spent a number of years in the industry practicing the craft, ID is not a specific skill rather a conglomerate of methods, models, practices, theories, and techniques.
  2. Instructional Design is the “design” of “instruction.” This profession has been around long before eLearning arrived and Instructional Design encompasses everything from classroom instruction to a job aide, while eLearning falls somewhere in the middle.
  3. Instructional Design is not a single skill but a varying degree of many perishable skills. The eLearning skills you need for 2011 may be directly influenced by the industry in which you work, and therefore some are more prevalent than others.

Let’s begin by suggesting you are either formally trained in ID or you have extensive experience applying the methods surrounding it. From there, what eLearning skills do you need for 2011 – the remaining ten months?

While I don’t necessarily disagree with this first list as each have their merit, but I’m not quite sure these fit as the top 5 skills needed for 2011 as opposed to the next 5-10 years. Let’s look at these 5 again from broader approach and discuss a few more I’ve thrown in.

  • Video Production – As Eric pointed out, the cost of producing your own video and the editing software available today is very accessible. However, unless your company is doing an entire video series there really is no reason to spend time learning video production specific skills – this year. Additionally, there are many organizations today that don’t have the proper infrastructure to support video in eLearning. Although any video editing does require patience, it’s not anything a novice can pick up fairly quickly. An affordable HD video cam, Movie Maker (Windows) or iMovie (Mac) can produce quality videos without much effort.
  • Social Media – As we all know social media is no longer a trend and is becoming the main stream of communicating. I don’t think SoMe is a skill so much as it is a practice. You gain knowledge of how SoMe works by the mere fact of being embedded in it. Similar to video production where many organizations are not set up to handle that type of media, even more organizations have not incorporated SoMe into their business. Just because there are several really great case studies using SoMe in training, doesn’t mean your organization has a business value to implement it. In preparation for the years to come though, I would encourage everyone to get a Twitter account, join LinkedIn groups, and engage in Facebook Groups, etc. to stay plugged in.
  • Mobile Development – I will echo the same thing here…many organizations are not set up to deliver anything mobile let alone mobile learning. Several predictions and forecasting models show mobile (smart phones, tablets, etc.) will be mainstream by 2020 and the keyboard and mouse that we so affectionately love today will be archaic devices. As for gaining skills for mobile development, many eLearning designers & developers do not “code” their courses anymore and use one of the popular authoring tools today. I’ve not hand-coded a course in over 5 years and my guess is we will see tools in the near future that will output mobile designs similar to how authoring tools do today with eLearning.
  • Graphic Design – Eric points out here that it’s not so much the skill of becoming a graphic designer, but rather where to find them when you need them as well as making your own. Researching images can be a daunting task, but having relevant research skills along with actually knowing where to go to find them should be foundational. Coming from a graphic design background, I’ve often made the decision to buy (or through CC usage) rather than create myself. In the end, the time it finally took me to search the appropriate images I could have built my own library!
  • Rapid Development – First, Rapid Development is NOT a replacement for Rapid Design. The design process must still occur instructionally and visually before any development begins. Every project dictates, but by entering each project with that plan, rapid development is VERY efficient and shaves off hours of work. Two very important considerations need to be addressed here as well: 1) Rapid development is not the cause of poor design, and 2) Rapid Development is authoring tool independent.

More skills:

  • Project Management – Consider the entire process from start to finish. You begin with an initial meeting to determine the overall performance outcome. From there you begin your analysis and agree eLearning is the best solution. In the end you have a course/module published on your web or LMS. That entire process is a project. I’ve seen more times than I care to admit where an Instructional Designer is in the middle of an eLearning project and has hit a snag with no clear idea how they got there or how to get out of it. I’m not suggesting run out and earn your PMI certificate, but having fundamental skills in project management methodology is essential.
  • Writing – This industry did not exist as a career path when I started. Many people today who work as Instructional Designers earned their ISD or IDT degree. Others came to this industry through circumstance with an English, Journalism, or Technical Writing degree, while others may or may not have any ID or writing background at all. Yet, I suggested that ID is assumed for purposes of this post, one cannot effectively develop eLearning if they do not know how to write content, scripts, or storyboards.
  • Storyboarding – Think of the storyboard as the project plan. There is no standard around the exact way to storyboard an eLearning project as each situation dictates. Most I see are sparse and not very useful if someone had to pick up the project on a whim. Think of storyboarding as a project workbook with all documentation supporting the eLearning project.
  • Rapid Prototyping – Not to be confused with Rapid Development, this widely unused phase is invaluable. Rapid Prototyping can occur early on in the process and be reviewed for instructional flow and usability. Other aspects such as writing scripts, asset collection, etc. are happening simultaneously.

The days of the workforce training departments with Instructional Designers, Graphic Artists, Developers, etc. is of the past. Today, teams and even individual contributors are the one-all-be-all Training Project Coordinators. This is not an official role, but the title fits more of what the real world is experiencing. One person is responsible for the entire eLearning project from cradle to grave. To be competitive, and more importantly create meaningful and memorable eLearning, one must learn multiple skills.

Top 6 Skills for eLearning 2011 - Pie ChartThere are a multitude of industries deploying eLearning. However, the corporate workforce seems to be where the most attention is needed in getting the right skills in place. With eLearning Weekly’s permission, let’s shake the list up a bit. From the perspective I shared above, two of the original and four additional skills make a new list of the Top 6 eLearning Skills for 2011:

  1. Project Management
  2. Writing
  3. Storyboarding
  4. Rapid Prototyping
  5. Graphics (design or researching skills)
  6. Rapid Development

What do you think? Are there more/less specific skills for eLearning that we can impress on people to learn or hone this year? Are there timeless skills needed no matter which direction the industry moves this year?

The Luxury of Instructional Design March 2, 2011

Posted by Eric Matas in Theory.
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6 comments

It’s better to know some of the questions than all of the answers. – James Thurber

You hear about the next training project you and your team have to manage. What questions come to mind? After questions about the main content, you’ll probably have questions about time, people and money.

  • Question Marks PicHow long do you have to prep the course?
  • How long should the course be?
  • Who is the audience?
  • What’s the budget?

These and other logistical questions help frame your strategy for making the course. They are crucial questions, even part of many trainers’ tool kit for analysis–the ‘A’ in ADDIE. ADDIE is widely used and tauted, but following ADDIE often leads to a fatalistic unanticipated side-effect: focusing on performance outcomes and writing learning objectives to get there means working backwards from the end, and the end causes worry. Side-effect: anxiety.

  • Will we get done in time?
  • Will everything we plan actually work?
  • Should we just use the same materials as last time?

Wondering whether or not you can put it all together can stop you from putting it all together. Or, it makes you focus less on design and more on implementation. With deadlines and resource constraints, you need to get some ducks in a row:

  • Can you really afford the luxury of instructional design?

No way. Not this time. We need to have a course ready for when the class shows up or logs on. We’ll look like idiots if we don’t look prepared or if our elearning doesn’t work.

Does this happen?

How about this: someone thinks about the learners and the learning they need. Someone takes a moment to imagine a learner after training, out on the front lines of life, where they need to know those vital nuggets of their training, and where success and sales either happen or do not. If you are someone who thinks of that, then maybe you have asked this question:

  • Can you afford to forget about instructional design?

Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple. Dr. Seuss

Thurber quote: Answers.com
Seuss quote: Thinkexist.com

The Thin Mints of eLearning February 21, 2011

Posted by Eric Matas in eLearning, Theory.
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2 comments

eLW Moved to elwmag.comDing-dong. Girls. Girls’ club. An organization for young girls, young women, powerful women. And it’s for the kids!

Delicious cookies.

(It teaches them about business. About selling. Money. Honesty.)

I’d like to sell to you, for $3.50, a box of thin chocolaty-minty learning cookies. Learning that you would enjoy. Binge on. Freeze for later. And even share with friends and family.

(I am talking about elearning.)

I start to wrap up the tower of cookies and put it back in the box with its twin, when it occurs to me that these individual Thin Mints are really very thin.  Super thin. Like, they’re barely even a whole cookie.  In fact, it would probably take three Thin Mints to equal one regular-sized cookie.  Which means if I eat two more, I’m really only finishing up one cookie, right?

Thin Mint of eLearning
That’s the truth according to the Didactic Pirate.

The truth about elearning: The experience of elearning needs to be so thin that it leaves learners wanting more.

That’s all folks. A thin mint this.

Five Words To Describe Corporate Learning in 2010 December 18, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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4 comments

Jeanne Meister, author of the New Learning Playbook blog, wrote a post yesterday on the five words she predicts will describe corporate learning in 2010. I think she’s right on target… Here’s a brief summary, but be sure to check out her full post for more info.

  • Social
    The word ‘social’ is overplayed, but what it represents is still relevant and will continue to be in 2010 (i.e. collaboration, information sharing, etc.). I still think we need to come up with another word besides social; it isn’t a good business word – but we’ll save that for another time.
  • Mobile
    Our mobile devices are becoming more and more powerful. It only makes sense that we will have more opportunities to use these devices in a learning context.
  • Collaborative
    None of us is as smart as all of us. Collaborative technologies such as wikis have proven to be very useful for learning and information sharing.
  • Engaging
    If I’m bored, I won’t learn. Learning solutions need to be challenging and as thought-provoking as possible.
  • Fun
    As Clark Quinn says, “Learning should be hard fun.” It isn’t always easy to make learning fun in a corporate setting (ex. compliance training), but it’s our job to give it a shot.

Are any of the concepts above ground-breaking for 2010? No, they aren’t, but I believe they put us on the right track to continue to improve our learning solutions and experiences for our end users. Hey, at least we’re trying! 🙂

LearnTrends 2009 Video Archive Available November 27, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the LearnTrends 2009 Online Conference, but I heard great things about it. Fortunately, I ran across a video archive of the conference, thanks to a blog post by George Siemens. (LearnTrends was sponsored by Jay Cross, Tony Karrer, and George Siemens.)

Check out the video archive.

There are tons of other details about the conference here, and you can get more info about LearnTrends on these social networks:

Enjoy!

Top 99 Workplace eLearning Blogs August 26, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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9 comments

Tony Karrer recently posted a list of the Top 99 Workplace eLearning Blogs over on his eLearning Technology blog. This list is based on the blogs that are used to power the eLearning Learning site, which is a great aggregator of information.

Tony’s list was inspired by a recent post over on the Upside Learning Solutions Blog that listed the Top 47 eLearning and Workplace Learning Blogs. (And I’m happy to say eLearning Weekly made both lists!) Be sure to check out these lists to find some new sources of info.

I read dozens of blogs, but here are some of my favorites that I read on a regular basis. They are in no particular order:

(I will be updating my blogroll soon to include these sites.)

Highlighted Blog: Social Media In Learning August 16, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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Jane Hart’s Social Media In Learning blog is proving to be a great resource for keeping up with technologies related to social learning, a.k.a. Enterprise 2.0, a.k.a. Learning 2.0. This blog complements the Social Media In Learning Handbook & Toolkit, which is a free resource for those who want a quick, easy-to-use, structured introduction to social media for learning as well as a practical guide to using social media tools. If you’re new to these tools and technologies, Jane’s blog and associated tools provide an excellent starting point. (And the info is still helpful, even if you’re a seasoned veteran.)

Jane continues to offer amazing resources to the learning and technology community. As I’ve said many times before, thank you, Jane!

(Pardon my short post this week; I ran a half marathon today which has had me a bit distracted recently!)

Enterprise 2.0 August 1, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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4 comments

Enterprise 2.0, the use of social media and social networking tools in a business setting, is having a major impact on how employees learn and share information. As learning professionals, it’s becoming increasingly important that we stay aware of these changes and understand how and why they’re happening. We need to play a bigger role in understanding and selecting Enterprise 2.0 tools, and we need to partner and collaborate with our IT departments along the way. Let’s dive in to learn more about Enterprise 2.0 and learn more about why it matters to us.

What is Enterprise 2.0?

According to the Enterprise 2.0 Conference web site: "Enterprise 2.0 is the term for the technologies and business practices that liberate the workforce from the constraints of legacy communication and productivity tools like email. It provides business managers with access to the right information at the right time through a web of inter-connected applications, services and devices. Enterprise 2.0 makes accessible the collective intelligence of many, translating to a huge competitive advantage in the form of increased innovation, productivity and agility."

Essentially, Enterprise 2.0 is the idea of creating an ecosystem of open, connected tools while growing and nurturing a culture of learning and sharing. Yes, it sounds a little soft and fluffy, but the main idea is to encourage employees to exchange ideas, learn from each other, and become more independent learners. This is very much in line with the theory of informal learning and social learning. Some of the more common tools related to Enterprise 2.0 are blogs (ex. WordPress), wikis (ex. MediaWiki), micro-blogging platforms (ex. Yammer or Present.ly), social bookmarking sites (ex. Scuttle), and even in-house social networks, similar to Facebook.

What role should we play?

Rather than look for ways to integrate Enterprise 2.0 tools with the LMS, I believe we need to take time to experiment and identify which tools have the most value at our organizations. Enterprise 2.0 is definitely not a one-size-fits-all situation. In fact, I find that if you have the right mindset, you’ll naturally figure out what works at your organization. For example, if you determine that you’re going to help connect people to people, and people to information, you’ll start to see areas where these tools will fit naturally in your organization. Don’t try to shoehorn fancy new technology where you think it will succeed. Listen to your learners, run small pilot programs (many of these tools are open-source / free), and experiment. Fortunately, unlike an LMS, you can install several of these tools and experiment under the radar. Then, after you start to see potential areas of success, you can be more visible and vocal with your efforts. (Depending on your situation and your comfort-level with technology, you may want to have an ally in your IT department during your experimentation. They can help install some of the tools / systems for you.)

Enterprise 2.0 Resources

Take some time to check out some of the links below. These are some of the best Enterprise 2.0 resources I’ve found:

Do We Still Know Our Audience? July 24, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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This article is a guest post by Steve Pena, Instructional Designer and Implementation Consultant, SyberWorks, Inc. Thanks, Steve!

We’re all fond of saying “Know your audience.” But how many of us track our audiences’ rapidly changing demographics? If you’re like me, it’s not a daily action item. But I just received a reminder of how much the audience for my work (and perhaps yours too) may change in the coming decade.

Every year since 1998, Beloit College has published its entertaining and revealing “Mindset List,” ® which “…is an effort to identify the experiences that have shaped the lives-and formed the mindset-of students starting their post-secondary education this fall.” And Beloit has dubbed the latest class (of 2009-2012) the first “Net Generation.” In only four years, these students will join our work force, and according to Beloit’s mindset list:

  • Drink electronic media like water, and breathe broadband communications like air.
  • They may have been given a Nintendo Game Boy to play with in the crib.
  • GPS satellite navigation systems have always been available.
  • Electronic filing of tax returns has always been an option.
  • Caller ID has always been available on phones.
  • The Hubble Space Telescope has always been eavesdropping on the heavens.
  • IBM has never made typewriters.

To these, I’d add:

  • AT&T has never enjoyed a telephone monopoly.
  • They do much of their phoning for free over the Web.
  • The Web has always existed.

As each college year begins, this list is a good reminder of how dramatically and rapidly our future e-Learning audiences are changing. And as Beloit reminds us about this year’s group:

“The class of 2012 has grown up in an era where computers and rapid communication are the norm… These students will hardly recognize the availability of telephones in their rooms since they have seldom utilized landlines during their adolescence. They will continue to live on their cell phones and communicate via texting. Roommates, few of whom have ever shared a bedroom, have already checked out each other on Facebook where they have shared their most personal thoughts with the whole world.”

This means a lot for the e-Learning community. The class of 2012 may not be the first to habitually seek much of its information from Web blogs, Wikis, Google, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. And it won’t be the last.

This doesn’t mean that we must immediately revamp the way we create and deliver e-Learning (or as some are now calling it: “Emerging Learning”). But it does remind us that:

  • New electronic channels and Web media are opening every year for our products, services, and promotional information.
  • The world’s next “movers and shakers” will increasingly expect us to deliver content over these new channels, and will seek out our content and services there.
  • They won’t allow themselves to remain bored for long by e-Learning materials that don’t grab and hold their interest.

And these are things we all should keep in mind, regardless of how we do things today!

About the Author:
Steve Pena is a Senior Instructional Designer and Implementation Consultant at SyberWorks, Inc., Waltham, Mass.

Interested in writing for eLearning Weekly?

28 Web Conference Training Tips July 10, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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This article is a guest post by Mary Polley-Berte, Director of Customer Support & Training, SyberWorks, Inc. Thanks, Mary!

Companies and organizations today use web conferencing in many aspects of their organizations-to conduct meetings, collaborate on projects, demonstrate products and services, and more. Learning to use web conferencing technology is pretty easy, but there is a lot more to training via web conference than just putting on a headset, dialing up an audio-conferencing bridge, and logging onto the application.

This article offers some helpful tips specifically targeted to web conference training:

  1. Even though you are using web conferencing to deliver training, the training content itself must still be planned and crafted just as carefully as if it were for a traditional classroom session or e-Learning course.
  2. When developing PowerPoint slides to use in web conference training follow these guidelines:
    • Simplify content.
    • Use a large, bold, simple font like Arial.
    • Have no more than 6 to 8 lines of text per page (fewer are better).
    • Make no more than 4 to 5 training points per page (fewer are better).
    • Use plain backgrounds that contrast well with the text without clashing.
    • If possible, avoid complex animations (i.e. no spinning text, etc.).
  3. Establish one person as the point of contact, (POC) for communicating with their group of attendees. Provide all information to this one person and let them communicate it to their own people.
  4. Provide an outline of objectives for attendees prior to the conference.
  5. Test all aspects of your presentation ahead of time. (Enlist the help of an online facilitator or a student for these tests.):
    • Check your phone lines and headset, and replace weak batteries with full new sets.
    • Though most web conference technologies automatically run a short program to install and test your machine, open your own test conference and run your presentation. Confirm that your machine won’t freeze up because of low PC memory or connection speed.
    • Check any online exercises, tests, or polling questions you have planned for the session.
    • Run through the presentation twice, to both check its timing and leave ample time for questions and answers.
  6. If student answers are being stored in a database or a learning management system (LMS), determine how they will be scored, saved, and accessed later.
  7. Are you using an electronic whiteboard? Check to see how its images will be stored. Will your students need them later? How can they access this material? Is it something you can post in a reference area on your training LMS?
  8. If you are going to demonstrate with examples, try to keep them relevant to the audience. It’s easier for people to learn when material is presented through examples that make sense to them.
  9. Check how much background noise your system produces. Stage the actual conference in a quiet place, where you can control any heating or air conditioning noise. Be careful about rustling papers. And never eat anything or chew gum during the conference.
  10. Will a host introduce you or will you have a guest presenter during the web conference? If so, you’ll need to run through all of things discussed in item 5 with the other participant.
  11. Do you or your guest tend to run long? If so, you may want to use cue cards. Or use a second computer (or laptop) as a time clock, to signal when someone is running long.
  12. Limit each session to 60 – 90 minutes. Longer sessions are not productive.
  13. Limit your audience. When possible, keep the number of people attending small. (No more than six people are best.)
  14. You might want to ask your technical people to set up a dual monitor configuration on your PC (or laptops) for you, so that your presentation appears on one display (as others are seeing it), while your delivery screens and notes appear on the other.
  15. If appropriate, check time zones before scheduling the web conference. You’d be amazed how often even experienced trainers forget to do this.and end up opening a conference at the wrong time.
  16. Related to item 15, check in advance to make sure that dates and times appear correctly in all meeting listings and notification messages. Confirm that the dates and times you define are communicated consistently to all participants.
  17. Check ahead of time that all online links through which students can join the web conference will work… whether they are delivered to learners in an LMS message, via email, or on a web page.
  18. If any learners are located in other organizations, try a test connect into their facilities well before the actual conference. Though rare, their IT departments may need to change some firewall settings before you’ll be able to communicate in.
  19. Have more than one Web Conference option ready to use. Then, if some participants can’t connect, you can create a new conference on the spot, with different conference tools.
  20. Generally, you do not want people to join a web conference until it is actually open for business. Depending on the system you use, you may be able to enforce this with a student display that says: "Cannot join until…"
  21. Before starting, ask your POC if everyone is present and if it’s OK to begin.
  22. During the actual conference, check in periodically by asking questions of the attendees. For example: "Does that make sense. Are there any questions so far? Can you think if an example where you might use this __________." This helps to ensure the attendees are attentive, and to see if they have any questions. Silence is a sign that the information is not being understood.
  23. Try to stay "on course" but allow for flexibility. Often questions asked will take you to another topic area and may require more explanation than allowed in the allotted time. Try to answer all questions and offer to follow up with more information offline, or in another conference, when time is limited.
  24. When you get close to the end, if you feel like you might run over or need a few extra minutes to finish up, stop and check with all participants. Be considerate of others’ schedules.
  25. Provide training exercises on the topics discussed.
  26. Plan ahead for how you will close the session. Thank everyone for their time and attention, leave time for any closing comments or information, discuss next steps (if any), and review how you can be contacted (if needed).
  27. Follow up with your learners after their web-conference training. This could be by email or perhaps even through a test to gauge their understanding of the material.
  28. Keep a log of all training and notes. It can help improve your future training.

About the Author:
Mary Polley-Berte is Director of Customer Support & Training at SyberWorks, Inc., in Waltham, Massachusetts. Mary is a graduate of Boston University and resides with her family in New Hampshire.

Interested in writing for eLearning Weekly?