I literally grew up crawling around the floor of a family business, looking up to my mom, my grandmother, and a lot of friends – aka customers. The experience deeply ingrained an entrepreneurial spirit within me.
Today, I think of myself as an intrapreneur. In the Chief Learning Officer article, Does your company value intrapreneurship, Andy Perkins describes an intrapreneur as ‘a house-trained wolf with the optimism, creativity and agility of an entrepreneur – yet can be managed.’
Intrapreneurship is less risky than entrepreneurship and as a single mom, I’ve always had to manage risk. Managing your work and your professional development with an entrepreneurial mindset, helps you to make it a priority to be clear about:
• the products & services you provide
• the value of those products & services
• the characteristics of the customer that you are able to provide the most value to
As an intrapreneur, never lose sight of your value & do whatever it takes to increase it.
In college, I came across more than a few ‘weed out courses.’ One in particular was a Calculus course that I struggled to get through – twice.
The struggle was real and it did a lot to weaken my self-confidence.
When I encountered the next ‘weed out course’, I just surrendered & changed my career path.
I wish, all the freely distributed digital learning resources available now, had been available when I came across those ‘weed out courses’ years ago.
I would have searched until I found a document, a video, or an online course to help me fill in the holes in my understanding.
I might be a Physiological Psychologist researching the effects of food & environment on behavior today, if I hadn’t concluded that it just wasn’t for me, because I struggled in Calculus & Statistics.
As a learning designer, my goal is always to empower people to take ownership of their learning. Organizations and schools specify standards, but we have many different options for how we meet those standards.
Here is my advice to my younger self: “You will encounter a lot of ‘weed out courses and experiences’ on the path to doing what you want to do & getting the things you want. Don’t get stuck in the weeds.”
All day, every day, we either purposefully design our environments, or unconsciously fall into someone else’s design.
We put on our favorite outfits to feel strong, capable, and in control or choose something very different to show a softer side that is open to being cared for.
We read inspirational articles & books, that give us the words to help us express our inner most thoughts.
We listen to music, that becomes the soundtrack for the episodes of our lives.
We design our homes & workspaces so that we are surrounded by our favorite colors, textures & smells.
We surround ourselves with family, friends, co-workers, and mentors that bring out the good, the bad, and the ugly that lies in all of us.
The #1 reason to become a learning designer, is recognizing that you possess an innate desire to design experiences that help people tap into the ‘designer’ or ‘creative energy’ that often lies dormant within them.
In the workplace, for instructional design to result in changed behaviors and improved performance, it must be deeply embedded not only in the way we learn, but also in the way we work. The question is, how do we do this systematically? It is an age-old question, and the answer is…one step at a time.
One of the most common and well researched instructional design approaches is the ADDIE Model. ADDIE is an acronym that highlights 5 essential actions required to develop an effective instructional strategy: Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate.
#1 – Analysis reduces the temptation to develop one-size-fits-all learning resources
During analysis, the goal is to identify concepts and skills target audience(s) need to know, as well as discover how and why it matters to the audience. To add greater value, the analysis should be ongoing, documented, collaboratively authored, and updated as relevant information is revealed. In the workplace, we have the advantage of maintaining long-term relationships with team members and business units, therefore the analysis should evolve over time, become more and more detailed, and be readily accessible to various learning facilitators within your organization.
Most of what we need to know, we’ll learn by asking questions? Initially, we may not know the right questions to ask or even the right person to ask the questions. However, the more questions you ask, the more stories you hear. The more stories you hear (from different perspectives), the closer you get to the source of performance challenges, as opposed to just treating the symptoms.
#2 – Design, whether it is graphic design for marketing or instructional design for learning, has the same goal – evoke an emotional response
In the world of corporate training, evoking an emotional response may sound counter intuitive, but it’s not. In his article ‘If Content is King, Context is God‘ Gary Vaynerchuk explains the value of context as it relates to branding. The context is your story. Your story is your brand, values, vision, and strategy. It’s your story, that will resonate with your employees as well as your customers.
In his thought provoking article, “Storytelling that Moves People,” Bronwyn Fryer, communicates the same idea this way, ‘stories are how we remember; we tend to forget lists and bullet points.’ Just as marketing is more effective when it’s creatively designed to tell a story, the same is true of learning. When supporting a team or business unit, if the learning design team doesn’t know your story or doesn’t fully understand how your story fits into the big picture, the instruction designed – will be impotent.
#3 – Develop a library of targeted resources that are fully aligned to your story
Learners are taking charge of their learning experiences by utilizing a variety of open source resources: Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), YouTube videos, blogs, etc. While learning and development professionals admire and encourage the initiative of the ‘entrepreneurial learner‘ it’s important that targeted learning resources are developed that clearly reinforce your organization’s unique messaging. Keep in mind that an excellent source of content required to create your most relevant learning resources will be your SMEs and your high performers.
#4 – Consider the consequences of how your LMS implements personalized learning strategies
In his article, Artificial Intelligence Comes to Learning, Zach Posner asks an intriguing question: can you thoroughly analyze, evaluate and create knowledge if you challenge yourself less and less by routinely outsourcing those functions to computer programs? If we allow ourselves to get lazier and lazier about building connections between information, facts, figures, people, and resources – will our creativity ultimately suffer?
The benefits of artificial intelligence are many, but we need to be careful that we don’t stifle creativity in our quest to make it easy to learn. Just as we are discovering the hazards of ‘social media filter bubbles‘, knowledge filter bubbles may produce similar consequences. Provide easy access to a variety of quality online learning resources (i.e. Lynda.com) to strengthen current skills while at the same time, developing new skillsets.
Empower employees by giving them the freedom to choose topics they want to learn that are not specifically aligned to their current role. The 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report estimates that the half-life of a learned skill is approximately 5 years, therefore the goal of a comprehensive learning strategy is not just to meet the current needs of an organization, but also to address future needs – many of which are currently a mystery.
#5 – Evaluation is the life blood of learning strategies
It’s often said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. In the absence of open, honest, and continual feedback of your learning strategies, it’s very easy to get in the habit of doing just that. Thorough evaluation demands more than just a survey conducted immediately following a learning experience. Because the majority of learning is the result of blended learning experiences, evaluating training programs should be conducted over a designated time frame in order to measure: the initial reaction (to a specific learning experience), recall of concepts or skills (generally being reinforced by a variety of learning experiences), observed application of concepts or skills (in traditional or novel ways), and ultimately the impact to your business’s bottom line. This feedback loop is critical to designing relevant and engaging learning experiences.
Evaluation takes the design team back full circle. It’s by no means the end of the design process. A combination of formative evaluation (performance tasks, quizzes, or surveys given throughout a learning unit or activity) and summative evaluation (follow up performance assessments or surveys given to evaluate the compound effect of a series of blended learning activities) is required. Consequently, evaluation generally needs to be conducted over a designated period (i.e. quarterly or semi-annually) to provide useful feedback – particularly if the goal is performance enhancement.
The instructional design team will need to take into consideration: feedback from the learners, feedback from those who evaluate the learners’ performance, and reports that quantify the impact of performance on the business’s bottom line. In turn, the feedback needs to be integrated into the design. For example, perhaps in hind sight, now we see that despite our initial analysis, our evaluation results indicate several learning exercises treated the symptoms of the problem, but not the source. If an exercise or an activity results in no significant change in behaviors or performance, it’s back to the drawing board, and the design process continues…
In his blog, Courses or Learning Episodes, Steve Wheeler, provided much food for thought. The instructional design course that I facilitate online does not have as a goal course completion by all students. The goal is simply to provide a source of just in time learning experiences presented in a context that encourages learners to recognize the importance of remaining conscious of overarching goals; goals that far transcend any specific subject.
An essential question is how do we design learning experiences with the ultimate goal of progressively requiring less and less directed learning or structure from course facilitators? I think most teachers enter the field with the goal of helping students to discover and strengthen their voice by encouraging them to exercise their voice. However, along the way that goal becomes greatly over shadowed as we attempt to adhere to program and course guidelines that unnaturally restrict learning experiences by discipline or subject as opposed to teaching holistically. Of course teaching holistically demands collaboration and transparency, 2 things that are often challenging to implement regardless of the learning environment.
I think conversations related to education reform efforts should be more about identifying and exploiting the unique value different learning environments provide which support the design of authentic learning experiences. Thankfully, the options for how we present lessons is virtually endless. However, if the students are not engaged and actively interacting with the course materials; they are just that: course materials. Learning can only be exhibited as a result of the interaction.
I recently launched a course on instructional design based on the ADDIE and UBD instructional design models. The course has been setup on several sites so that I can evaluate the designer tools offered in each learning environment. I am experimenting with the tools of 3 different learning management systems: Moodle, Blackboard, and Desire2Learn. It has been interesting to observe how drastically the look and feel of the course changes from platform to platform. I also setup the course in Udemy. Udemy offers a wide variety of online courses including The ABCs of Instructional Design, facilitated by yours truly. I think I just about have the course organized the way I want it. It’s amazing how different a course that you have been designing for years looks when you start seeing it through the eyes of new students!
I am still trying to get my bearings because the MOOC assignments are hosted in several different learning environments. Sometimes when I am asked to respond to a discussion post or blog, I’m not sure which environment I am supposed to be working in. Today I have spent some time working in the practice area setting up course units using the Moodle “book” resource. So far, I think I am going to like this format. I generally use the “page” resource to setup up overview pages, but this can tend to result in a long string of Unit tasks and I want to find an alternative. Sometimes seeing too much information at one time can be overwhelming for students. The book format will allow me to focus their attention on the topic at hand.
So far so good! I just started the self-paced course and I find it to be interesting as well as challenging! Being introduced to many new tools and the Moodle platform is a bit overwhelming at times! Of course, I just have to remind myself to slow down and remember it’s self-paced. The Moodle MOOC includes 3 components that I strive to include in my course design: self-reflection, active learning, and social engagement!
Please visit my Understanding By Design webpages to gain a greater understanding of how the UBD design model can be used to create comprehensive study units. The principle purpose of these pages is to establish a forum for the collaborative development of middle school science units. The unit currently under development is for 6th grade Earth Science students studying the Theory of Plate Tectonics. Join in the development process by using the blog to ask questions or share activity ideas, instructional strategies, and instructional tools!