Sunday, November 08, 2009

Highlights of ELELTECH India 2009

The National Seminar on e-Learning & e-Learning Technologies concluded yesterday in Hyderabad in the JNTU campus. It was good to attend a conference on eLearning after very long. The ELELTECH India 2009 national conference was organized jointly by CDAC and JNTU.

The high point of the conference was the speech by the chief guest (Prof Ananth, Director IIT Madras). He talked about the need for experiential learning as the key to effective learning. He shared his vision of education for all and how the NPTEL program was working towards this vision through the virtual IIT classes.

NPTEL was certainly the theme on day one! Every speaker highlighted the effort dedicated to this project. The fact that MHRD has sanctioned around Rs 400 crore to this initiative made everybody in the room sit up and take notice.

Well, ELELTECH will soon release the highlights of the seminar including the talks on their website so I'll stick to a critical appreciation of the seminar.

Things that were good:

1) Good panel of speakers: It was a privilege listening to the speakers as they shared their experiences, practices, and visions. Here's a highlight of some of the interesting and passionate sessions:

a. Prof Mangala Sunder Krishnan (IIT Madras), who presented NPTEL in detail. It was great to get an insight into how they have conceptualized, planned, and executed this mammoth program. The next steps forward are evaluating the effectiveness of the program, gathering feedback from learners, teachers, and viewers, and more importantly building other instructional activities around this program. For example, creating certification programs, lab exercises, simulations, etc.

b. Prof Sahana Murthy, Assistant Prof, CDEEP, IIT Bombay: She presented a unique initiative by IIT Bombay called OSCAR. She used the project OSCAR case study to describe what makes eLearning successful. Despite some technological glitches at the venue, we could see interesting web-based interactive animations used to create a more engaging and challenging learning environment for students.

c. Prof Kavi Narayan Murthy, University of Hyderabad: This was an interesting presentation exploring the opportunities and challenges involved in using eLearning as a tool for language learning. He presented the toolkit developed by his group for Indian languages.

d. Ms Jhumpa Ghosh Ray, director Change Initiatives: She presented her experience about installing an eLearning device called Kyan in 65 state run schools in rural Bengal; the positive impact of this experiment on student turnout, teachers motivation, and overall learning effectiveness.

e. Dr Vinod Joshi, SKS Microfinance: This was the highlight of the second day when Dr Joshi presented the 3-tier review model for eLearning modules. He emphasized the need for an iterative review process where reviews should be performed in relationship with all other activities.

2) Wide coverage of presentations: There were presentations about eLearning technologies, glimpse into the latest work done on the educational campuses (open source learning systems, video conferencing tools, and innovative learning tools), best practices in corporates like Honeywell, innovations in learning technologies for the visually challenged, and other trends in eLearning.

3) The conference had talented speakers and practitioners from all industry, academia, and non-profit sectors.

Things that could be better:

1) Quality of presentations could be more consistent. There were great presentations while some of them were very basic and some were really poor. In a world-class seminar of this magnitude, there is a need for tighter and more stringent quality regulation.

2) Categorization of sessions: While the program schedule had pre-defined session titles and objectives, not all speakers/presentations adhered to this tightly. For example, during a session on Quality Assurance and Standards, we had a presentation about an open source eLearning platform, Brihaspathi, developed by IIT Kanpur. This was an amazing tool and a good presentation by Dr Y.N. Singh, but it didn't fit into the session category so it was an abrupt shift from QA discussions held through the session.

3) Over-emphasis on technology: Well people may disagree with me, but there was an over-emphasis on technology and not on learning. Also not all technology aspect was directly related to eLearning. Therefore these sessions seemed more like internal classroom presentations about what the department is dabbling with rather than cutting edge innovations in eLearning technology. Wish these were filtered early and quality monitored!

4) Parallel sessions: In conferences like these that cover a wide range of domains within one broad domain, it's a good practice to have parallel sessions. People can pick and choose the sessions they want to attend and make the most of their time that they spend at the conference. In fact, this makes the sessions more focused, interactions more defined, and exchange of information much better.

5) Balance between industry and academia: The seminar was more inclined towards academic world. Since most of these initiatives will affect adults, working men/woman, and students as they step into the industry, there should be more representation from the industry about research and innovations.

6) Lacking in innovative approach: It was ironical that a session on eLearning technologies was technically backwards! There was no innovative use of time of the great speakers who had gathered there. The breaks could have been used more imaginatively, web 2.0 technologies could have been used better.

- There could have been live streaming of the sessions, could have given it more reach and credibility

- There could be free wi-fi for people who would want to twitter and blog about the sessions

- They could have organized tables with ports and encouraged people to present to groups in an informal setting during breaks.

- The sessions should have been more interactive. People were bursting with questions to explore and discuss, but were cut short by the facilitators and moderators for lack of time.

- Since the objective was to enable people to share and interact, this could have been a conscious effort at all times. Maybe some imaginative ways to facilitate that.

7) Time allocation: Poor time management can be a pain point for all! Especially when you have spent money and devoting precious time attending a conference. Organizers must pay special attention to better time allocation and time management. In a sequential presentation format, it is obvious that time encroachment of one session can have a ripple effect on the schedules of others. Therefore, ideally inform speakers in advance about the maximum time they can spend on their sessions; and adhere to it closely irrespective of whether its an invited speaker, key note speaker or a chief guest.

Having said this, organizing a seminar is not easy and it involves more than a year's effort to organize something at this scale. Hat's off to CDAC and JNTU for executing this as best as they could. I hope the above points are taken as feedback to ensure that these seminars are a delight for attendees and participants!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Are you offering a Merc when he's looking for a Maruti? – Are you scaring your clients away?

It's but natural that given the economic situation, companies are selling hard and aggressively in the market. But all the hard selling and aggression can be futile if this does not match the need of the market. Given the crisis in the industry, most companies have evolved methodologies and processes to strengthen their systems. This in turn means that their sales teams are under double the pressure to market these competencies as well as fetch business. Here are some pointers from personal experience about how to make a customer-focused pitch without diluting your core competency or making an overkill.

a. Are you scaring your clients away?

Often, more than the cost, an overly grandiose proposal can scare your clients away. Recently, when we were sending out a proposal to a client, Rahul our director sales and marketing upon receiving the proposal called back frantically saying that the proposal looked quite daunting. The detailed description of our methodology could scare the potential client who is looking for a very specific part-solution. Well, although our intention is genuine wherein we want our clients to know the depths of our processes but too much information for a busy client can overwhelm them. Some may equate extensive details with high project cost and shy away from proceeding with the proposal.

b. What is your motive? Offering a solution to the client or generating additional business for yourself?

Many believe it is good business sense to create additional needs for your client and in the process generate more work for themselves. However, I believe it is foolhardy to make the client spend more that what they currently need (more so given the economic situation). In fact, I believe the solutions that we offer our clients should not just meet but always surpass their expectations. Only then will your clients trust you and respect your ideas.

c. Have you captured your clients' needs before proposing to them?

Am sure most of us practice this. But what I want to emphasize is do we really probe and discuss with our prospects to understand their 'real' need? Here's an example. A client comes to us saying that they want us to train their telesales about some basic technical concepts. The usual practice would involve understanding the domain, gathering information about telesales and subsequently designing the training. However, the key here is to understand 'why' does the organization need this training? If they have internal trainers why are they looking outside? If they have had this training before, what is it are they expecting to be 'different from this training? It definitely helps if you can gather informal information about their expectations, their experiences from earlier training etc.

d. Do your clients need what you are selling?

Are you offering a solution because you have one and must sell or are you offering it because the solution best fits your client's need? In the past, eLearning earned a bad reputation in the Indian market because many eLearning companies pushed eLearning to clients who were not ready for it. Many of these clients got carried away by its sales spiel (cost-effective, no geographic constraints, no recurring cost etc) only to realize later that this mode of delivery was not right for their industry or their employees. Consequently their investment in eLearning went waste. This led to distrust and loss of credibility for eLearning and other training providers in the industry.

You may have a solid methodology, a great product, and a fantastic development team. However, over-pitching may scare your clients away!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Do you simply test your eLearning product or do you evaluate it?

I often encounter questions about the virtues of testing versus evaluating an eLearning product. These are critical questions that each learning professional must ask in order to design an effective course.

While most companies are happy with a typical QA that includes the usual rounds of reviews and course testing, it is not enough to make a course usable and learnable. There remains the obvious BIG gap - the role of the "learner" in the testing process. This is ironic because the learner is the recipient of the course and it is tragic if the learner does not get an opportunity to test the course prior to release; and consequently finds the course 'un-learnable', unusable, and ineffective!

Here are 5 reasons why you should relook at your development process and involve your learners in the "evaluation" process.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

5 things IDs can think differently about!

I often come across instructional designers who are pretty much stuck with things that they had started out doing early in their careers. While over time, their exposure to tools, kinds of courses, and abilities to handle content and clients have increased, what I see unchanged is their approach to instructional design. Unfortunately, most organizations, training companies, trainers and instructional designers are still hesitant about adopting newer methodologies. Bloom, Gagne, and ADDIE continue to be the cornerstone of instructional design even today. While these are good as foundation stones, the fun is to evolve and explore newer techniques and methods.

To begin with, let's check out 5 things IDs can think differently about!

1. Overcome the itch to design: Every ID must overcome the itch to design. This is almost always responsible for training that is content-centric and not learner-centric. As soon as you receive the content and the project specs, do not jump into design. Spend substantial time on the analysis phase, understanding your learners. Ask these questions about your learner:

- What is the profile of my learner?

- Why do my learners need training?

- What relevance can I show my learners through this training?

- What will they achieve at the end of the training that will significantly change the way they work?

- What is my learners motivation to attend this training?

Answers to these questions will help you design training that maps to your learners' needs. You may be itching to design a game-based learning, a scenario-based or a comic strip-based learning, but if the learner analysis indicates a video cast, then so it be! Remember, course design is not a designer's fancy imagination, it is a blue print of your training module and should directly map to your learner's needs, wants, and motivations.

2. Do not restrict yourself to the available tool or the content dump: The content dump is just a dump of information. Often, IDs start story boarding using the content dump, and are trapped in a content-centric course. At the most, the content dump is a convenient warehouse for all your content needs for the project. You must get out of your mindset of only eLearning or only ILT. When you think of training, ask questions like what is the best mode of delivery such that my learners learn. For example, if I'm going to train the on-the-road salesmen, how should I deliver my training? Will an eLearning work just because we specialize in it? Or, will an ILT be most effective just because the organization has trainers to deliver them? Or, can you use mobile learning since most salesmen are glued to their mobile phones 24X7? Bottom line is - think beyond content - think about your learner and what will benefit them.

3. Define the goal of your training: The goal of your training is the outcome of your training; not just the objective defined in your statement of work! It is good to design learning objectives - these are your grid lines in PPT. For example, your learning objectives may be: 1. Explain the selling process to village entrepreneurs. 2. Recruit village entrepreneurs as per the specified process. 3. Explain the steps to maintain sales records. These are your learning objectives that your learners will achieve by the end of the training. While it is important to address the learning objectives, keep in mind the overall goal of the program as you design the modules - which is to make the salespeople more productive.

4. Do not handle your learners with kid gloves: Your learners are adults so treat them like adults.

- Offer genuine choices - not forced choices or invalid choices. For example, do not offer learners the choice of an unstructured path knowing very well that the course design is linear.

- Don't have no-brainers as practice exercises - just for the sake of practice.

- Focus on "Do" rather than on "See" - Adult learners prefer learning through metacognition

- Do not provide examples that look good in a grade school workbook. Give them real life problems and expect them to come up with real life solutions.

5. Explore and experiment: Experiment using music, videos, audio, visuals that map to your learners' expectations. Do not be afraid of bold design. In fact, one of the key outcomes of learner analysis is the visual strategy of the course. Once we decided to do away with the conventional "Back" and "Next" buttons on the interface of an online training program; instead learners navigated based on the scent of information on each screen. Similarly, for a classroom training, we supplemented the classroom mode with some outdoor activities where the learners had to sell real-life products in real time! Explore various methods of testing the course. Your very stringent QA round can only help detect bugs and errors, they cannot spot hurdles to learning that your learners encounter while going through the course. Go ahead and let your learners test the course. You'll be surprised at what you observe - it can be a humbling and enlightening experience!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Kern's Second Workshop on Web 2.0 in Mumbai - Post Lunch

The session is underway post lunch! Vaishnavi is doing a great job of facilitating this group of enthusiastic and vocal participants. Every participant has great insights and opinions to share - which has made the session very interactive. Now, the participants had a go at the Virtual World. They created their 'avatars' and explored places - from IKEA to Coca Cola to Amity Business School! Interesting discussion followed about the potential of using virtual world in real world training.

They weighed out the pros and cons of using virtual world versus simulations. Participants explored their use in a typical sales training scenario, in an induction program scenario and other possible applications. Post a preview of the web 2.0 tools and their potentials, they are now on to hands-on tasks about tackling their workplace training using these tools.

As part of the team activities, the teams came up with very interesting ideas about the uses of Web 2.0 tools in their training scenario. Post enthusiastic discussions about Kern's philosophy of 360 degree training, the workshop came to an end. We hope to carry forward discussions, exchange ideas, and share information with our participants on our Workshop forum. Thanks to Rahul for all logistical support! It was a great venue, great participants, and a great workshop!

Kern's Second Workshop on Web 2.0 in Mumbai

Kern's second web 2.0 has started off to a great start in Mumbai. It's a great convention center - Avanta at Bandra Kurla Complex. We have one whole wall that overlooks the Mumbai landscape, Our participants have come in well ahead of time, which is a great thing. This time we have an interesting mix of participants from diverse background - Nitin from Mahindra First Choice, Ruchita, Swati, and Shikha from Kotak Life Insurance, Vineeta from Godrej Agrotech, Vijay from Castrol, Sachin from Convergys and Jayanti from ICMR. The participants have listed down their expectations on post-its on the wall:

- What are the various web tools?

- What are the web 2.0 tools that I can use for training?

- How do we evaluate the effectiveness of these tools?

- How to use these tools to use interactive training material?

- How to teach?

- How to use web 2.0 tools in science, technology and medical field?

- How to help us making training simpler?

- Learn about innovative learning and training modules.

- Learn simple easy to deploy tools for effective communication with internal customers.

- How can web 2.0 tools enhance my day to day working?

We had an interesting discussion about the web 2.0 tools and philosophy. Interestingly people had different perspectives on the use of these tools at work. While most of them used these tools, they perceived them as 'personal tools' and not 'official tools'. This set forth an interesting discussion on the virtues of some of these tools and their benefit at work. There was an interesting discussion about virtual worlds! Unfortunately, the virtual world seemed to be a bit of a problem because of the bandwidth problem.

Post chai and cookies, the participants have assembled for a charged-up discussion session. There seems to be an interesting discussion about our learners - their learning styles, their approach to learning, and their motivations. The current discussion is about whether "a most analytical" person is likely to play "analytical games"or not? There is one school of thought that believes that most analytical people will not spend time playing 'analytical games' and another school of thought that agrees.

Look out for more updates as the workshop progresses.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Siftables - A shift in the way we do things?

Siftables are the latest rage - gamers, technology enthusiasts, learning professionals, researchers, everybody is trying to explore its potential. From the limited information that we have about Siftables on the Internet, I could think of the following uses off the cuff:

- teaching-aid during workshops (demo flow charts, processes, phases, cause-effect relationships) am tired of flip charts, videos, and flash cards :)

- demo tools during boardroom meetings (can say bye bye to laptops/LCD projectors - but yes may be cumbersome for a larger group)

- work as calculators and memory-aids in old-age homes (the display size being bigger than a calculator but need to check the ease of use among older people)

- designers can use this to ideate, mock-up sequences, demo and share possible combinations of their design (has the potential of being used as a prototyping tool)

Check out some interesting news posts and video about Mediamesh another piece of display technology. Watch the Siftables and Mediamesh video

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Design Thinking!

I am a great fan of Ideo. I love the way they have institutionalized design. What can be more charming than the ability to summon creativity at will! I learned early in life at my art Fine Arts academy that creativity is not an art, it is a craft. Although I was always fascinated at how our Aquilla Sir could transform his thoughts on paper ever so effortlessly, I grew up to realize that it's the thinking behind the creation that really makes a difference.

This was further reinforced in my journalism school. Our prof Mr Adarsh Varma (one of the founding journos at Pioneer and stone drunk even at 12 noon) reiterated for the umpteenth time that "editors are not born, they are made!" You only need to cultivate an eye for detail to make the cut. This stayed with me as I ran around as a reporter trying to cover stories and then trying to have them published without being hacked into a quarter of the original. That's when one veteran shared with me his pearls of wisdom - it's not how good you write or what facts you present, it's about the structure you follow to make the story relevant for your reader.

When I joined a corporate in 98 as a tentative editor in an unexciting domain of computer-based training, I did not think I would survive the mundane system. More so as editing meant thumbing through 1000 pages of MSTP and then trying to convince a bunch of computer-crazy youngsters that uncheck and deselect are grammatically incorrect! Slowly, this turned out to be my biggest challenge ever - trying to convince a group of young GNIITians (hired as instructional designers but aspiring to become programmers) that they too could write. And, break their beliefs that writers are either born or are English majors! The next challenge was to teach them to design courses. I could see them flinch when asked to design the experience of baking a cake. They would invariably begin with throwing in flour, butter, eggs and sugar together. Slowly, they started "thinking" design.

Today, many years later I sense deja vu when a client asks me to cut down research and analysis and get down to design. "Why don't you cut the crap and get a creative chap to just design the solution?" Strangely, this does not frustrate me any longer. I jump at this opportunity to share my belief about design thinking. This philosophy holds true as we groom future IDs and designers at Kern.

This reinforces what David Kelly has to say - move away from thinking of yourself as designers to design thinkers. Design is a systematic scientific process. You can follow a methodology or a defined process and rest assured that you can arrive at a design solution. And, if you look at the creative success of Ideo and their huge portfolio of award winning work, you certainly want to believe that a solid methodology can yield the most creative of ideas. At Kern, we too have seen the success of our structured approach towards solving many complex design problems.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Workshop 2.0: Insights and Ideas for Future

Our first workshop on Training 2.0 ended on a great note on January 31. Vaishnavi has captured it well. The participants were happy about that the workshop met their expectations. Don't forget to hear what they have to say about the workshop.

The workshop also threw up some interesting insights about Web 2.0.

- Most of the participants have been using Web 2.0 tools without actually being aware that these are Web 2.0 tools.

- The most common perception about Web 2.0 tools are that these are just networking tools. You can use these to stay connected. Not many were aware of the potential of these tools in training.

- Individual classroom trainers were most excited about the prospect of using these tools to deliver training. While there was initial hesitance or insecurity about sharing "content" freely, they seemed to warm up to the idea of using Podcasts, videocasts, blogs, and forums to reach out to a larger audience!

- Virtual world has a perception that you can "kill hours" on it during leisure. The case studies of 'training in virtual world' really set people thinking and they started throwing ideas...

We have started receiving requests for future workshops from HR Managers in Mumbai, engineering institutes, and other individual trainers. Vaishnavi is also thinking of updating the content of the workshop and throw in interesting activities for participants where they have hands-on experience designing learning using some of the Web 2.0 tools.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Workshop 2.0: Session on Virtual World!

Our workshop participants are crazy about games. Considering their profiles during registrations, we are pleasantly surprised that they are avid gamers. Lots of games, Age of Empires, Cricket 2008, racing games, shooter games, snooker, chess, Quake... so it wasn't surprising that most of them were familiar with the Virtual World.

Well, we are now on the session on how we can use Virtual Games for Training or learning. The session's resumed after a sumptuous lunch of Subs, sandwiches, chips and coke. We have all settled in well for an engaging workshop ahead. We could not have asked for a more engaging session what with having a glimpse into the fascinating virtual world of CISCO, Princeton University, Stanford, Harvard Law school etc. Participants seem quite enthused by the "endless possibilities" that these virtual world "simulations" have for the learners today.

Vaishnavi has just demonstrated a "heart murmur simulator" and asks participants how they can use this for learning at their workplace? Our participant from Taj Deccan says that he could create a simulation to show how to check-in and use it for training. There is another interesting video that shows creation through collaboration by architects on Second Life. We have moved on to details about Virtual World such as avatars, currency, trading, etc.

So, the next obvious questions are "why do people own land on Virtual World?" "how can they make money on virtual world?' After all these are answered, participants move on to explore the learning possibilities that virtual world hold for trainers. "We can bring in all training modes under one roof, let's say podcasts, videos, lectures, everything that we do in real time." "Virtual world can help us overcome the constraints of time, space, and geography."

"So how much land does Second Life have?" Well, this question from one of the participants got everybody thinking.. So, Second life session is on in full swing with participants glued to this fascinating virtual world that can possibly fulfill all your dreams!

The participants then moved to exploring the virtual world themselves. Although most of them were new to Second Life, they were completely engrossed with their Avatars. They got down to exploring the spaces in this world, chatting up with other SL avatars, changing appearances, trying to shop, checking out music, fashion, having coffee... well they were having fun on SL.

"It's fun! It's creative... you have complete control over your actions... there is no hindrance to exploring things... space to create your own thing... interact with others in your chosen space ..." These are some of the reactions that our participants had after exploring Second Life!

Obviously, they were abuzz with ideas about how they can use this for training and learning. One of them suggested using this space to discuss case studies, another had an idea that he could create an empty room and ask his learners to do-up the room as per their hotel norms. So lots of ideas coming by...and we hope they have lot more by the time they reach their workplace!

More of our workshop pictures here.

Workshop 2.0: Training 2.0 in progress

Our first workshop "Training 2.0: Training's New Avatar" is off to a great start today. We have 7 participants toady and the workshop started off to a great start over cups of steaming tea, coffee on a pleasant Saturday morning!!

We have an interesting mix of participants: hoteliers, individual trainers, and participants from IT world. This is bringing in great discussions among the group. There are some who are new to Web 2.0, some are just about familiar with Web 2.0, and some who have not quite accepted the change that web 2.0 has brought in.

We're just about half day into the session and I would love to jot down some interesting findings from the workshop so far that has overshot the session duration.

a) Learner 2.0 may be more confident over the net, more social over the net, but he is an introvert in real world, he is unsocial in the real world.

b) One of the participant is unsure of the credibility of information on the net; he is unsure of what content to trust. He would want some kind of accreditation or a standard body certifying content on the web. He would like to see this seal of approval before he uses information from a source.

c) Common consensus among learners: The fact that the learner is more independent now has triggered the "web 2.0 revolution".

d) Participants are eagerly sharing their experiences with Blogs, their perception of blogs and text messages.. "I blog about things that I strongly disagree...if I cant get my views on TV, I can blog about it and reach out to people."

More follows...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Are Web 2.0 tools designed to support learning?

Whether it is Web 1.0 or Web 2.0 tools, we need to understand and evaluate the affordances of the tools and their abilities to support and deliver learning effectively. Today, I came across a case study that evaluates the pedagogical affordances of web 2.0 technologies.

The case study makes some interesting points about the pedagogical affordances of web 2.0 technologies. To put it across in layman’s perspective, the case study analyses the abilities of web 2.0 tools to deliver training.

1) Very few of the current crop of Web 2.0 technologies started life designed as educational tools. (Which is very true. Web 2.0 technologies are designed for collaboration, sharing, content creation etc. They are not designed exclusively to deliver training.)

2) The specific design and functionality of a particular tool or technology does not define its pedagogical usefulness. Rather there are other important ingredients required including the imagination and creativity of the individual user as they conceptualize problems or issues in their own environment that the particular tool might facilitate or help solve. (I agree. As a consequence of point 1, most web 2.0 tools cannot by themselves deliver training. To help integrate into the formal structure of training delivery, trainers and learners have to tweak and modify them with the features and functions to support training-related tasks.)

3) Categories of ‘affordances’ associated with Web 2.0 or social software: • Connectivity • Collaborative information discovery and sharing • Content creation • Knowledge and information aggregation • Content modification

However, what is interesting is that these affordances need not necessarily lend themselves into “training or learning” affordances. Let’s map the affordances of Web 2.0 tools to evaluate their applicability in a training framework.

What are the typical learning/training needs and how can Web 2.0 tools support these needs?

1. Learners should be able to relate concepts to real life application. To facilitate this, Web 2.0 tools must support streaming media and dynamic content in order to show application of concepts through cases, scenarios, and examples. Trainer can post video clips visuals or presentations, learners can reflect on these and post their comments. Examples: YouTube, discussion forums, blogs.

2. Learners want to practice what they have learned and preferably in a real-life or realistic situation. Therefore, Web 2.0 tools must have features that support free movement of learners within an environment that is close to real. The environment should show consequences, offer alternative paths to explore, make decisions, deconstruct, move, and respond to stimuli. Trainers can design a dynamic environment that simulates real life. In this environment, learners are exposed to situations or offered options where they can practice in a fail-safe mode. Examples: Virtual world, simulations

3. Learners today need to work in groups during the learning process. The Web 2.0 technologies must support multiuser activities such that multiple learners can interact in a dynamic learning environment. The learning environment can facilitate interaction among many learners and allow them to interact, share, and create. Examples: Virtual worlds, blogs, and wikis.

4. For learning to be effective, it needs to facilitate interaction among learners, trainers, and experts in a synchronous mode. To make this happen, Web 2.0 tools need to support instant exchange of messages and feedback among multiple users. They should provide a platform where learners can post comments and trainers/experts can view them and respond. Examples: Virtual world, web-conferencing tools like WebEx, Twitter

5. Learners want to have the freedom to take notes, make handwritten annotations on visuals, video, comment on specific audio files etc. The Web 2.0 tools should enable learners to scribble notes, make annotation on the video or the image, and rip information bytes from the videos, podcast or audio files. Both trainers and learners should be able to display annotation (feedback) from each other instantly or selectively depending on the training need. Examples: Web-meeting and conferencing tools, web learning applications

You can view a list of Top 100 Tools for Learning compiled by Jane Hart of Center of Learning and Performance Technologies.

Therefore, to conclude, Web 2.0 tools are designed to facilitate collaboration, sharing of information, content creation, easy updation, and democratization of the web world. Trainers, learners and instructional designers can capitalize on these facilities to design and deliver effective learning solutions.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Designing Training Delivered Using Web 2.0 Tools

This is the first in the series on learning, training, and designing instructions in the Web 2.0 environment.

I remember having a discussion with Vaishnavi about how instructional design for Web 2.0-based learning should be different from that of traditional learning (classroom training and eLearning).

The fact remains that learning is about learners and not about tools or technology. Also, web 2.0 is not about a tool or technology, it is about the philosophy where technology empowers learners to do much more than just view and read off the web. While I believe that the basic premise for designing instructions will remain the same, the instructional strategies used will depend a lot on the learning environment, the changing profile of learners, and the new age Internet tools that also act as learning tools.

Understanding learners will always be (and has always been) the most critical aspect of designing training. This involves identifying their learning needs and providing solutions that address their needs. In web 2.0 scenario, the scope for instructional designers has vastly increased because the learner behavior is changing. Today, learners are in the “rip, mix, and publish” era; they are more empowered than before. They are not content with passive viewing of information; they want to contribute actively to their learning process. So, how does this change the way they learn?

The biggest change is the shift from uni-directional, top-down, centralized and structured learning to “informal learning”. Informal learning is learner-driven. It is an on-going process, it may or may not follow a structured path, it may or may not have a beginning and an ending, it may or may not be monitored and guided, and it may be conscious or unconscious. How do these dynamics impact the role of an instructional designer?*

1) Instructional designer has to keep in mind the changing behavior and profile of the learner. The learner wants more control over his learning today. Therefore, learning design has to facilitate learner control, cater for the learner 2.0.

2) ID has a lot of freedom to explore the various delivery methods while designing a learning solution. Therefore, ID needs to be aware of the potential of the tools and technology available in web 2.0.

3) While the basic principles of ID hold good as a guiding principle, IDs need to explore and innovate other development methodologies to design and deliver learning. The design process needs to be more dynamic and innovative to be able to exploit the advantages that each of these tools offer.

* Will update this post with more research and examples soon.