Immersive Learning

I have this great little shelf in the bookshelf app on my ipad.  It’s just books by people I know.  I feel genuinely privileged to know so many people with so many interesting things to say.

Some of them are drafts for books that are still in progress., but one that’s already out in the world is Koreen Pagano’s Immersive Learning: Designing for Authentic Practice:

immersive learning

It’s great, for a few different reasons:

Reason 1: The subtitle — Designing for Authentic Practice.  So immersive learning environments can sometimes be shiny objects.  Remember when everything L&D was going to start happening in Second Life?  Yep, that didn’t happen.

One of the reason’s it didn’t happen was because there was because the focus was on the technology (“Ooo – we can build a virtual replica of our corporate university!”) and not on the really interesting part — the possibility for high-context practice. We remember more if we learn something in the same environment where we will use the information, so virtual worlds were interesting for that reason, but that got lost in the hype cycle. Koreen rightly focuses on the real purpose for immersive learning – high-context practice environments.  It’s about the practice, not the technology.

Reason 2: The case studies – So, one of the problems with a lot of L&D books is that they are more about what can be done, rather than examples of what has been done. This naturally happens with new technologies.  When they were brand new, both mobile and xAPI have had to start with the possibilities rather than real examples, until some critical mass built, allowing for case examples.

Immersive learning suffered similarly for a long time, but if anybody is able to speak from direct experiences, it’s Koreen.  The book is worth it for the case studies alone. Lots of really good examples of use, with the kind of nitty gritty details you need to help inform your own practice.

Reason 3: Underwear Gnomes — how can you not love a book that starts with a really well-played South Park reference?  It’s indicative of Koreen’s overall accessible, entertaining style, which makes the book a really pleasurable read.

 

 

 

 

Manifestos and MCQs

Hey folks,

So a couple of quick things.  A few of us launched this today: http://elearningmanifesto.org/ — would love to know if it seems useful :)

And second, I was collecting some resources on writing good multiple choice questions (which is really hard), and thought they might be useful to post here

Will Thalheimer has some things on his site – mostly shorter job aids:
He also wrote three articles on scenario-based questions that are here:
Cathy Moore also has some good blog posts:
A number of universities have guidelines for their faculty — you can probably find several by googling.  For example:

 

Webcast: Using the Psychology of Games for Learning

I should have posted this a few days ago, but I’m doing a webcast tomorrow (Wednesday May 15th, 1pm ET) for ASTD on using the psychology of game design for learning.  Talking about some familiar stuff (flow, hyperbolic discounting) and a few new things (visceral feedback).  Not sure if you need to be an ASTD member to attend, but I *think* you can just sign up:

http://webcasts.astd.org/webinar/731#.UZKUcU7gd84.twitter

 

Narrative Strategies for Learning

Had a lovely time at the Learning Solutions Conference last week.  Did a full day pre-con on Gameful Learning Design with Rick Raymer, which was a lot of fun.

I also did a session on Narrative Techniques for Learning.  When I was working on Design For How People Learn, I listened a lot to a podcast on storytelling techniques.

Stories!

A lot of learning and development folks *are* fiction writers, in the form of learning scenarios, examples and case studies, but (in my experience) it’s frequently pretty dull stuff (and I say this as someone who has written some dull scenarios myself).

So this session is about pulling some of the specific strategies that fiction writers use to into learning scenarios.  There are a lot of other interesting ways to explore storytelling in terms of meta-structures, psychology and cultural constructs.  This isn’t that presentation (though I’ll probably do that one too, one of these days).

This presentation is focused on specific strategies for making learning stories more interesting.

References:

 

 

Creativity and Instructional Design

I’m listening to the most recent toolbar episode with Judy Unrein, Brian Dusablon and their guest, Connie Malamed. They talk about a number of things, but there’s a lot of discussion of creativity – how to be creative, the importance of creativity for problem solving, and the unfortunate lack of creativity that can happen in learning design.

I think that there’s a weird attitude to creativity in our field – that it’s a nice-to-have (and just be clear — this isn’t something Judy, Brian and Connie said, but rather an attitude I’ve bumped into many times elsewhere).  I think that there are a couple of reasons this isn’t true:

  • We pay attention to things that are novel and unusual.  We are constantly concerned with engaging our users.  We know what whatever we build isn’t effective if users aren’t paying attention.  In the same way that humor can improve learning and retention, unusual and novel stimuli break through our cognitive tendency to habituate to an unchanging stimulus (and yes – using big words to make your business case is a legitimate strategy).
  • Well-designed experiences create positive affect in learners, which can improve learning and retention.  The best resource on this is probably Don Norman’s Emotional Design, but his contention is that things that are well-designed do work better.

So, creativity is a legitimate design strategy – not something that is a pretty garnish on the plate.

Here are a few other interesting things on creativity:

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Why You Should Learn About Tin Can

I blogged! Just not here!!

I’m the guest blogger this week for the Tin Can folks.  It’s a post about why should care about Tin Can if you are an instructional designer:

http://tincanapi.com/2012/09/04/what-does-tin-can-mean-to-instructional-designers/

I also get to bitch a little bit about SCORM and how is that not fun?

Craig Wiggins Says Let’s Stop Pretending

I tweeted the link to this article about 19 times today, but I’m posting it again here.  Craig Wiggins has been knocking out good stuff on the ASTD Learning Circuits blog all month, but he saved the best for last:

Let’s Stop Pretending

Every field has them, but Learning & Development has a lot of them – things we do or believe because of convention or habit or denial or fear.

What would you add to the list? Go put yours in the comments. I’m also thinking this would make a heckuva blog carnival (Who’s with me?).

(And as an added bonus, Kathy Sierra stopped by in the comments and showed us how it’s done #bam #asalways)

Gameful Webinar – Recording

The recording of the webinar that I did for the Gameful folks has been posted – it’s available  here:

http://gameful.org/groups/gameful-webinar-series/forum/topic/gameful-webinar-%E2%80%93-sunday-february-12-2012/

We wound up with a troll in the room towards the end, who kept posting links to -erm- unsavory sites, so be careful about clicking links in the chat (The ones in the actual presentation slides are safe).  Made for a slightly odd experience.

Slides and links can be found here: http://usablelearning.com/about/presentations/leef/

Toolbar Podcast #9: Usability. Don’t Be a Moron.

The Toolbar is a podcast by Brian Dusablon and Judy Unrein that involves talking about the tools that e-learning practitioners use (and also beer). It’s just the kind of satisfying shoptalk that usually only happens at professional conferences or the like.

I got to be a guest on this week’s episode, talking about things like usability, feedback loops, quick and dirty user testing, and what’s fundamentally broken about e-learning development.

Go have a listen: The Toolbar Episode #9: Usability. Don’t Be a Moron (and even if you don’t have time for the whole episode, go check out the great list of links Brian compiled in the show notes).

Is learner motivation your responsibility?

Just had this quick interchange with Patti Shank on twitter:


This is a totally fair comment on Patti’s part — you can’t force someone to be motivated (and undoubtedly some of our disagreement stems from semantics – not that THAT ever happens on twitter).  A lot of the conversation around gamification (for a heated throw down on the topic read the comments here) is about the dubious and likely counterproductive effects of extrinsic rewards as motivators.  According to Alfie Kohn in his book Punished by Rewards, a big part of the problem with extrinsic motivators is that it’s about controlling the learner, not helping or supporting them.

So that I totally agree with – you can’t control your learner, or control their motivation.

But design decisions do have an impact on human behavior.  For example, this chart show the rate of people who agree to be organ donors in different European countries:

In the blue countries, choosing to be a organ donor is selected by default, and the person has to de-select it if they do not want to be a donor.  In the yellow countries, the default is that the person will not be an organ donor, and the person has to actively choose to select organ donor status.

Now it could be that some people aren’t paying attention, but at least some of that difference is presumably due to people who do notice, but just roll with the default (you can read more about it here - scroll down to the Dan Ariely section).

So the way something is designed can make a difference in behavior.  Of course, that’s not a training example, so let’s take a closer look at how training might come in to play.

Is it a training problem?

Robert Mager used this question as a litmus test:

“If you held a gun to the person’s head, would they be able to do the task?”

He further discusses this in his book on Analyzing Performance Problems but later uses the less graphic “could they do the task if their life depended on it?” question (Thiagi advocates for the version “Could they do it if you offered them a million dollars?” if you prefer a non-violent take).

So basically, if someone could do the behavior under extreme pressure, then they clearly know how to do it, and it’s not a knowledge or skills problem, and therefore outside of the domain of training (could be up the person’s specific motivation, could be a workplace management issue, etc.).

Here’s where I disagree

I think the way you design learning experiences can have an impact on the likelihood of people engaging in the desired behavior, and that it is part of an instructional designer’s responsibility.  I don’t think you can control people, or force the issue, but I do think the experience they have when they are learning about something can make a difference in the decisions they make later.

There are a couple of models that influence my thinking on this, but the two I use most often are the Technology Acceptance Model, and Everett Rogers Diffusion of Innovations.

The Technology Acceptance Model

The technology acceptance model is an information systems model that looks at what variables affect whether or not someone adopts a new technology.  It’s been fairly well research (and isn’t without its critics), but I find it to be a useful frame.  At the heart of the model are two variables:

It’s not a complicated idea – if you want someone to use something, they need to believe that it’s actually useful, and that it won’t be a major pain in the ass to use.

TAM specifically addresses technology adoption, but those variables make sense for a lot of things.  You want someone to use a new method of coaching employees?  Or maybe a new safety procedure?  If your audience believes that it’s pointless (ie not useful), or it’s going to be a major pain (ie not easy to use), then they will probably figure out ways around it. Then it either fails to get adopted or you get into all sorts of issues around punishments, incentives, etc.

I keep TAM in mind when I design anything that requires adopting a new technology or system or practice (which is almost everything I do).  Some of the questions I ask are:

  • Is the new behavior genuinely useful? Sometimes it’s not useful for the learner – it’s useful to the organization, or it’s a compliance necessity. In those cases, it can be a good idea to acknowledge it and make sure the learner understands why the change is being made – that it isn’t just the organization messing with their workflow, but that it’s a necessary change for other reasons.
  • If it is useful, how will the learner know that? You can use case studies, examples, people talking about how it’s helped them, or give the learner the experience of it being useful through simulations.  Show, Don’t Tell becomes particular important here.  You can assert usefulness until you are blue in the face, and you won’t get nearly as much buy-in as being able to try it, or hearing positive endorsements from trusted peers.
  • Is the new behavior easy-to-use? If it’s not, why not? Is it too complex? Is it because people are too used their current system?  People will learn to use even the most hideous system by mentally automating tasks (see these descriptions of the QWERTY keyboard and the Bloomberg Terminal), but then when you ask them to change, it’s really difficult because they can no longer use those mental shortcuts and the new system feels uncomfortably effortful until they’ve had enough practice.
  • If it’s not easy to use, is there anything that can be done to help that? Can the learners practice enough to make it easier?  Can you make job aids or other performance supports?  Can you roll it out in parts so they don’t have to tackle it all at once?  Can you improve the process or interface to address ease-of-use issues?

Everett Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations

The other model I find really useful is from Everett Rogers’ book Diffusion of Innovations.  If you haven’t read it, go buy it now.  Yes, NOW.  It’s actually a really entertaining read because it’s packed with intrguing case studies.
It’s loaded with useful stuff, but the part I want to focus on right now are his characteristics of innovation that affect whether a user adopts or rejects an innovation:
  • Relative Advantage – the ‘degree to which an innovation is perceived as being better than the idea it supersedes
  • Compatibility – the degree to which an innovation is perceived to be consistent with the existing values, past experiences and needs of potential adopters
  • Complexity – the degree to which an innovation is perceived as difficult to use
  • Trialability – the opportunity to experiment with the innovation on a limited basis
  • Observability – the degree to which the results of an innovation are visible to others

There is obviously some crossover with TAM, but If I’m designing a learning experience for a new system, I use this as a mental checklist:

  • Are the learners going to believe the new system is better?
  • Are there compatibility issues that need to be addressed?
  • Can we do anything reduce complexity?
  • Do the learners have a chance to see it being used?
  • Do the learners have a chance to try it out themselves?
  • and, How can they have the opportunity to have some success with the new system?

Now, if somebody really, really doesn’t want to do something, designing instruction around these elements probably isn’t going to change their mind (Patti’s not wrong about that).  And if a new system, process or idea is really sucky, or a pain in the ass to implement, then it’s going to fail no matter how many opportunities you give the learner to try it out.

But here’s the thing – I can design a training intervention that can teach a learner how to use a new system/concept/idea, which could meet the Mager requirement (they could do it if their life depended on it), but I will design a very different (and I think better) learning experience if I consider these motivation factors as well.

I don’t want to take ownership of the entire problem of motivating learners (waaaaaay too many variables outside of my scope or control), but I do believe I share in the responsibility of creating an environment where they can succeed.

And bottom line, I believe my responsibility as a learning designer is to do my best to motivate learners by creating a learning experience where my learners can kick ass, because in the words of the always-fabulous Kathy Sierra kicking ass is more fun (and better learning).

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References

Davis, F. D. (1989), “Perceived usefulness, perceived ease of use, and user acceptance of information technology”, MIS Quarterly 13(3): 319–340

Johnson, Eric J. and Goldstein, Daniel G., Do Defaults Save Lives? (Nov 21, 2003). Science, Vol. 302, pp. 1338-1339, 2003. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1324774

Mager, Robert and Pipe, Peter, Analyzing Performance Problems: Or, You Really Oughta Wanna–How to Figure out Why People Aren’t Doing What They Should Be, and What to do About It

Rogers, Everett Diffusion of Innovations