Saturday, February 28, 2015

Instructional Problem: What would I do in this situation?

In my twitter feed, I saw a question for the #lrnchat community. The question was 'What would you do in this situation?  To read about the situation, click here.
From the post on Quora, here is a summary of the situation:
-Problematic course that needs to be fixed
-11 modules each of around 40-60 slides
-All of the imagery is inappropriate
-All the interactions are meaningless
-Source materials from the SME are extremely vague and rambling
-Learning objectives are all poorly defined
-Course took 12 months to create with an ID working full time
-Extreme time-pressure to fix the course with very limited budgets

This problem is as real as it gets. It is not a unique, course-specific, client-specific, SME-specific, ID-specific issue. Infact, this situation correctly defines the problem being faced by many reflective instructional designers, educated clients and smart learners. 

I don’t know the complete situation and by no means do I claim to be the expert here. However, this question did make me think. 
So, here are some of things that I would do in such a situation:
  • Analyse: Spend some time doing analysis before jumping into 'fixing' the course. Reconfirm the need for the course, why it is important, how it will be used, who will use it, etc. Be sure that the 'course' is the right way to close the learning gap. If not, step away from the job and don't create the course or fix the existing course.
  • Talk to learners: Talk to the learners to identify how the course is relevant to them and how they plan to use the information from the course. Be sure to understand the learning context.
  • Focus on the vital: Use the 80/20 Pareto principle and identify the vital few, the most critical learning objectives. Draft these learning objectives. These will be the 20% that make the most difference and are directly tied into 80% of the real-world performance tasks.
  • Focus on what learners need to do: Use the 20% objectives to focus on what the learners need to 'do' and using that filter, remove what learners need to 'know' or things that are 'nice to know'.
  • Revise content and media: For this 20% course content (which is now roughly down to 2 modules), revise the existing content or rewrite new content, if required. Create suitable media as required. Relevant content is the best way to ensure interactivity and engagement.
  • Think outside the PPT: Remind yourself that using PPT slides is not the only way to deliver the training. Think about other interactive and engaging methods to deliver the training with not too much content writing yet ensuring maximum impact. For example, leverage SME time to build scenarios or role-plays that can be used during the course so that learners get to practice their new skills and receive feedback from experts.
  • Use blended learning: Work with the client to build sessions by guest speakers or experts within the organization who can share stories or anecdotes related to the content area and how it is applied on-the-job. Make the course 'blended' so that learners can engage with both the content and the delivery media.
  • Make learners pull content: Create a course where the learners can 'pull' more content when they need it. Don't write everything they should read or they should know. Create a framework for learning and support it by providing references, additional reading material, books, videos, etc. If they have a question, learners should know where to go or whom to speak to.
So, that’s what I would like to do in such a situation. I do realize that projects and clients don't always go the way we would like to. However, as long as we are committed to designing and developing the best learning for our learners, we know that we are doing our bit to solve the problem. 

For some great advice on what makes quality instruction and valuable learning experiences, visit Serious eLearning Manifesto. If you agree, show your support!