The Best Lessons Learned in Instructional Design

I’ve worked in government my whole career and learned long ago that if I was to do anything, it would always be on a tight budget. Based on my work experiences, in 2003 I wrote my master’s thesis about, and then in 2005 published a book titled, eLearning Solutions on a Shoestring. As we all moved from products like Authorware to PowerPoint and other slide-based tools, I wrote Better Than Bullet Points, now in its second edition. (Editor’s note: If you buy this book used, be sure that what you are buying is the second edition. We have heard that some vendors are selling and shipping the first edition. The link above will take you to the correct listing on Amazon.)

So, when The eLearning Guild approached me about presenting at a recent Spotlight session citing the breadth of my work over the years, it gave me a nice chance to revisit some of the things from way back. And I found that, while tools have come and gone, with possibilities beyond what I could even imagine, some things really haven’t changed.

Don’t overdesign

One of the reasons we ever got interested in eLearning was its promise of just-in-time training. Alas, over the years for many of us, development of even simple products has become anything but that. I have seen people struggle with design elements like decorative art, interactions like complicated games that are really just tarted-up multiple-choice questions, and creating and running video when a still photo would do. Be careful of working too long to create a perfect, elegant product instead of a quicker working solution. And keep your eye on the job-performance ball: The punchline to one of my favorite “eLearning on a shoestring” stories is that Duke Medical School, upon finding that physicians had become so dependent on technology that they could no longer just use stethoscopes, did some retraining via simple audio files deployed on iPods.

Remember: For most things, good eLearning is about design, not software

What makes eLearning boring? The same things that make classroom training boring: Someone reading content. Too much extraneous content. Content not relevant to the worker. No opportunities to think and engage with content.

One way to make it less boring: Show that you are attending to the learner’s reality. My husband, who is sometimes pulled to help at the front sales counter at his job, tells the story of a mandatory customer service video. It was clearly an expensive, polished product with high-end production value—that offered completely unrealistic scenarios. It was obvious the designer knew nothing about the worker’s daily experience. (Big tip-off: The customers in the video always had exact change.) A lower-end product with more credible content could have provided a better learning experience.

Always ask: Is there another way?

I’ve written before about the problem of trainers who complain that learners want to be spoon-fed but won’t let them hold the spoon. Look at how you can design to get learners thinking rather than letting content just wash over them. And realize this may not take complex interactions. See “Let the Learners Hold the Spoon” to see how simple changes to a single slide can move the learning experience from content-pushing to knowledge-pulling.

Remember: Content is abundant

This is a quote from our friend Thiagi, who reminds us that every time we set out to work on new “content,” the odds are it already exists. Learn to use what’s out there. Online quiz? Ask for permission to adapt and use it. YouTube video? Assign people to watch it and comment either on the video itself, or back on your discussion board, or on your SharePoint blog. Lots of text-based material? Turn it into a learning game. Spend some time looking around for inspiration. Google things related to the topic you’re working on. Try “Mine safety eLearning” or “Online course mine safety” or “mine safety training preview.” Odds are someone has found an unusually interesting take on that. Keep up with the weekly Articulate eLearning Heroes Challenges. If you can get to some live conferences, The eLearning Guild’s events set aside an evening for attendees to present examples of their work. Next up is DemoFest at Learning Solutions in March. And once you’ve seen something you like, ask: “How’d they do that? Can I do that? Can I do it with next-to-no money?”

Those of you who’ve been around a while, think back to what we wanted eLearning to be

Quick, easy to access, just-in-time, just-for-me, in bites both palatable and useful for workers. Get back to those roots, and you’ll find working on a shoestring doesn’t have to mean creating inferior products.



Ten Tips for Hiring a Stellar eLearning Freelancer

Organizations looking for help with developing eLearning content would do well to tap into the fast-growing freelance market. It provides a wealth of skills and expertise that is cost-effective, flexible, and agile.

But with so much choice available, how do you ensure you hire the best eLearning freelancer?

I have pulled together this list of 10 tips on how to hire an eLearning freelancer, based on the experience of providing freelancers to fulfill eLearning projects all around the world.

1. Be ready to hire

This may sound like a statement of the obvious, but the freelance market is fast-paced, and freelancers with good skills are in high demand. That means you need to offer work that is ready to start in the next few days, not projects that are at the planning stage with a start date that could be six or seven weeks away.

2. Clearly define the task

Be crystal clear about the project and what the role is. This should provide some context about the organization, the scope of the project, and what you expect the freelancer to produce. This part of the process is critically important, as you might find you don’t need a freelancer at all—or that you need more than one. By defining the task, you define the resource capacity required.

3. Know your budget

The budget is an important filter that will help narrow down potential freelancers. Providing a range for the fee—whether it is a day rate or fixed-fee job—is a good approach, as it will mean you get interest from freelancers who will have differing skills sets and levels of expertise.

4. Set the expected time commitment

From the outset, freelancers like to know what the time commitment is likely to be for your job. It may be a few hours a week to a few days a week, and it may last a week or three months. Make sure you are clear about the immediate time commitment and whether it might flex over time. This information helps them to pick the right job, and it helps you find freelancers who can fully commit to the work.

5. Ask yourself: Do you need a freelancer on site?

Looking for people who need to be on site or at your office will dramatically reduce your choice of freelancers. So, be clear as to whether you really need freelancers to be on site, and if you do, then think about how much time you need them there. Requiring someone to be in the office one day every two weeks, versus every day of the week, will expand your choices.

6. Check out their portfolio

Gone are the days when freelancers could reasonably say that their work was hidden behind a corporate firewall or buried deep in a learning management system. Ask and expect to see one or more portfolios from a freelancer. They might have more than one portfolio showcasing their range of skills—instructional design and eLearning development, for example. Good freelancers will provide portfolios tailored to the work and skills you are looking for.

7. Set a test

You wouldn’t hire a permanent employee without assessing their skills—and the same rule applies to freelancers. Make sure to set an appropriate test or task based on the skills you are looking for. For example, a task for eLearning content development might be to make a change to the skin on a document and rewrite copy to be more scenario-led.

8. Get testimonials

Ensure you have success stories from the freelancer’s work for other clients. Freelancers need to provide evidence of the project or challenge, what they did, and the outcome. Expect to see examples of work from a range of clients—you want to see that the freelancer has worked for different organizations and across different industry sectors. Expect to see feedback from the person who hired them.

9. Communicate effectively

Set out how you would like to communicate with your freelancers for the duration of the project. This is especially important if they are based off site. Make sure you schedule regular project updates and ask your freelancers to provide a time sheet.

10. Define the tools you use

As well as setting out what tools you use for eLearning development work—such as Articulate or Captivate—make sure that you outline all the other internal communication tools that will be used on the project: Slack or Yammer, for example. This will help identify freelancers who are able to use your tools.

These 10 tips describe how to find the best eLearning freelancers for your next learning project. But remember, this is just the start of the process. Think about onboarding freelancers in the way you would onboard any full-time employee.

That means clear communication around when the job starts, what they need in advance of that happening, and what you need them to know. The more effort you put in at this stage of the process, the quicker your newly hired freelancer can get on with the job you hired them to do.



9 Ways To Use Social Networks In eLearning

The eLearning is a term mostly serving to describe deliberate education with advanced technical user-friendly and intuitive teaching methods. Few of us, however, acknowledge the role different social networks play in teaching us to organize the conventional learning process thus merging it with eLearning step by step. Here you can get a rundown of using social networks in eLearning and how they make it ever more readily accessible and integrated for students. Getting to know how to operate these useful branchy GUIs on their own can make you a power user.

1. Sharing Audio Through iTalk

Running low on reading/writing focus at the lecture? Turn the chore into a podcast! iTalk makes capturing, editing, and distributing vocal audio even easier than it may seem with nowadays advancements. When dealing with a lot of lectures that force you to take notes till your hand withers this comes down as a convenient alternative of having a recorder. Now you can quote the speaker on every word.

2. Sharing Photos And Images Via Instagram

The notorious Instagram. You wouldn’t probably think it has anything to do with academic productivity, but it does actually. Despite having ego-driven activities one click away, many students avail themselves of posting photocopies of learning materials. Instagram excels at making organized collections of photos that are easy to manage and share. You can come up with a unique hashtag that will help your fellow students find the needed photos and pics.

3. Hosting Complex Folder Trees With Wunderlist

A great finding for a scatterbrain student, this web app will help you organize all the material you need to process. Folders, deadlines, commenting, reminders, check lists will help you and your supervisor to hold all the essentials in focus.

4.  Collaborating In Google Docs

This one should not be a stranger to anyone. Giving multiple access to text documents with traceable edit history and commenting has never been easier. In addition, it is used both by businesses and any kind of student teams with both basic and more complex written goals.

5. Taking Notes And Scheduling In Evernote

Originally designed as a database to remember everything, Evernote is a very useful tool for writers. Now it serves as a digital draft book you can pop up on your laptop or mobile device any time the inspiration strikes you. And, of course, the reminder functionality is still there. It’ll help you keep track of all you need as a convenient to do list.

6. Bookmarking With Pocket

Is your browser bookmark folder a painful display? An infinite roll of links stretching into infinity and beyond? If you really have a lot of links to keep organized and ready, the Pocket will help. It takes bookmarking to the “all you could think of” level with shared bookmark folders, collaborative editing, and organizing.

7. Sharing Vids With Vine

here is no better platform for posting short videos that yield high engagement. Viral videos are not the only side of the coin. In the fast paced environment of our world, Vine is also used for giving highlights of interesting lectures. With long videos the key points would otherwise be overlooked due to time constraints. Few people will go through an hour long video. Vine brings the compromise of 6 seconds.

8. Structuring Your Tasks With Trello

Trello is used by multinational corporations and its features will greatly benefit student teams too. Advanced scheduling and file hosting features make it an ultimate platform for collaboration that will introduce real time project management to young adults. Delivered in a sticky-note-like drag and drop fashion this task management platform makes goal completion feel very physical and rewarding.

9. Communicating Via Snapchat

This popular student app allows real time collaboration during the learning sessions. If integrated into the classroom by a teacher, students can do centralized commenting, image/link sharing, and texting. It truly makes empowering lessons, utilizing their potential to the fullest. Just don’t mix up the private chat with that one of teacher’s.

Of course there are more social networks that contribute to better learning and, most importantly, to connecting people. Additionally usage of complex social networks in eLearning provides a valuable learning experience on its own that prepares the students for difficult tasks and challenges of collaborative work in the modern conditions. So you better embrace it because eLearning has more or less permeated into everything.


Reprinted from eLearning Industry

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