High Heels and eLearning Lessons

Close up of brown shoes isolated on white

My heels were no taller than 3″ inches—polished and professional—yet comfortable enough to wear when I was a classroom trainer.  My wardrobe consisted of jackets and coordinating black skirts or slacks.  Those were the days I stood in front of a class room, training adults on a wide variety of software applications.My wardrobe has changed over the last few years.  Now I wear casual jackets, my de facto black slacks and flats.  Now I train from behind a laptop, creating and designing online courses. When I was at Research Rockstar, as an eLearning designer, I used my past experience as classroom trainer to make sure our materials appeal to diverse learners—including those who may be more accustomed to learning market research via in-person training formats.

eLearning Options: Instructor-led or On Demand

  • Instructor-led training (ILT) can be taught in-person or via a virtual classroom.  When taught in a virtual classroom, it is a form of eLearning.
  • On demand training (also often called self-paced/asynchronous training or web-based training) is taught online, at the learner’s own pace. This is also a form of eLearning.

As far as designing the training content, both types of eLearning require good instructional design for the adult learner.  The training must include clear, measurable learning objectives, engaging content, well defined layouts and a logical flow from one topic to the next. Attributes must be included to maximize both comprehension and retention of the content.

What’s different between these two forms of eLearning is the delivery:  how each course is delivered as well as when and where the learning takes place.

Both instructor-led eLearning and on demand deliver location independence. The learner can sit atop a bed, in a quiet home office or office cubicle, or on a mobile device while sitting on a train.  No airport travel time and expense is required, nor significant time OOO (out of office).
For learners seeking eLearning but trying to decide if instructor-led or on demand is the best fit, consider these two questions:

  • Do you want real-time Q&A? If that is important, instructor-led is the right choice. In an instructor-led eLearning classroom, the pace and flow can be adjusted as learners ask additional questions or want to explore more topics in depth.
  • Do you like to interact with peers? Again, a point in favor of the real-time eLearning classroom.
  • Do you want total schedule independence? In the on demand eLearning environment, the content is fixed, but learners have control over time.  They can start and stop whenever they like.

Learning, Either Way

The bottom line is you have a two-step decision to make when choosing any kind of professional training.

  1. In-person or eLearning?
  2. eLearning that is instructor-led or on demand?

It’s all a matter of preference. And whether you want to ditch the 3-inch heels.


Professional organization… ADAPT

adapt_meeting_smallIt is pure coincidence that the topic of networking and connectivism occurs within the time-frame as an organization called ADAPT’s bi-monthly meeting will be held.  ADAPT, a local New England training professional non-profit association has been in existence since the 1970’s.  Over the past few years, not only I have become an active member, but I am even currently on the Board of Directors.  The value as a professional networking organization is incalculable.  I’ve met so many wonderful professional trainers, instructional designers, facilitators and consultants all of whom share their expertise and experience. I would like to share what it means, where it’s going, and invite anyone to join and participate.

ADAPT is a non-profit organization providing training professionals with a forum to exchange ideas, network with each other, and share industry best practices while bridging the gap between learning and technology.

There are so many benefits to belonging to a professional non-profit organization.  The website highlights them:AdaptAdvantage

  • Meetings
  • Knowledge sharing
  • Professional networking
  • Career growth
  • Products and services
  • Shared website communication tool

Next week, Thursday, May 9, 2013, ADAPT is pleased to host both a “live” meeting and virtual meeting with reknown expert, Cynthia Clay. She is well known in training circles for her company Netspeed Learning Solutions.  Her topic is:  Great Webinars: Crossing the Chasm to High Performance Virtual Delivery Getting to High-performance in Webinar Delivery.

She will be covering:

  • Avoid the 3 most common errors that make webinars dull
  • Apply 5 techniques to transform your virtual classroom
  • Adopt 3 practices to reduce the impact of technology snafus
  • Take away a white paper describing the competencies of a skilled virtual trainer

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.  Joining an organization, armed with your newly acquired ID skills, will surely enhance your career and networking!


Communities of Practice… Emergency Preparedness

It wouldn’t surprise anyone to say the Boston Marathon bombings and all the events subsequent have overwhelmed the entire metropolitan Boston area.  We were engulfed in the events, glued to the radio or TV or web.


Not only was the event a distraction, but I can make a smooth transition between Communities of Practice in the healthcare world – specifically emergency preparedness because that happened to be my topic of the “intervention paper.”

Emergency Preparedness culls together the planning, identification of disaster (natural or man-made), severity (catastrophic or routine), risk assessment (low to high risk) and command center responsiveness.  The impact on the hospital, staff – and community in general – looms large.  Being prepared in the event of a disaster forces the hospital to be prepared and respond to disasters and to help existing and potential patients should a disaster occur.

“To differentiate between traditional adult learning which bases itself on the assumption that learning is something adult individuals do, Lave and Wenger’s theory heralds learning which takes place in a social group setting.  As well, learning, in the traditional sense, has a finite duration.  Classes or courses start at the beginning, include activities and assessments, and in the end, the learner will be taught the new skill.  However, both Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger overturned the focus to learning as a social experience which germinates from daily living.  (Wengner, E. (1998). Communities of Practice. Retrieved from Communities of Practice: http://www.ewenger.com/theory/

Even with the utmost careful planning, integration among various government agencies and hospital staff, no one can predict the devastation a bomb hurled during the Boston Marathon.

photo:  Boston Globe (4/19/2013)

Alphabet soup: CEUs are SDL

Doctor typing on PC

My example of self-directed learning is about my husband.  He is the Director of Medical Records at a Family Clinic.  His profession requires a strict set of Continuing Education Credits in order to maintain his credentials.  He’s been in the profession for over twenty years.  The credential RHIA (Registered Health Information Administration) follows his name. Headquartered in Chicago, the governing body AHIMA (American Health Information Management Association) mandates 30 credits within 2 years.

All that said, CEUs are self-propelled and it’s incumbent on the person to maintain the current knowledge to stay abreast of the latest software, coding, trends and governmental policies. 

Keeping on top of the Continuing Education Credits is a form of Self-Directed Learning because there are no specific rules.  The person must be responsible for his/her own CEUs. They can take the appropriate courses via online, conferences, written material, courses or workshops.  I can see the benefits of keeping on top of the current trends.  Many professions require CEUs….but not Instructional Design?

Prepare for the unexpected…

I wish I had a jovial example of a transformative event, but my example is a sad one, but one that has enlighted me and my family.  The sudden death of my mother, at age 74, brought my immediate family into turmoil.  My father, a traditional man, did not cook nor clean, nor shop, so he was fraught with the task of providing for himself.  His health was frail, so it was incumbant upon my sisters and me to find appropriate care.

All this leads to learning about the labyrinth of elder care services: assisted living facilities, home care, nursing care, government entitlements etc.  It is a maze of paperwork.  While it was quite a saga for over five years, my sisters and I gained insight on how to deal with this.  (We are fortunate to all live within 40 minutes of each other).  Having siblings will share in the tasks equally is always benefical.

Step 1:  Have a meeting with the parent about the next steps. Do they want to live alone?  Can they live alone?  Can they still drive?  What ailments do they have.  Start the hunt for alternative housing or in-house aids.

Step 2:   Divide the tasks:

  1. Financial – gain access to accounts; be a co-signatory for various accounts
  2. Health care – learn about the doctors who specialize in the care of the elderly
  3. Legal Documents – get the legal documents in order (Living Will, Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, etc.
  4. Housing – assess whether to sell the house.  Find alternative housing if need be.

Step 3:  Hire a geriatric care manager: (optional)  (I wish we did this.  These are experts in elder care issues.

Before I write a thesis on this, suffice it to say, the event was transformative, but the outcome was a learning experience.  We sadly lost our Dad after five years in an Assisted Living facility, but by-and-large, he was well cared for and happy to see us.

Bottom line:  Prepare.  Transformative events are usually unexpected.

Theories, types & models

There’s no shortage of theories to explain personality types and models.  Common among them, of course, is the Briggs Meyers (or is Meyers Briggs?).  It seems to be the theory of choice in many corporate-wide organizations.  Rooted in Carl Jung’s theory, it’s a straight-forward theory allowing for classification for working in teams, understanding strengths and weaknesses, as well as developing an understanding of other’s motivations and behavior.  I would imagine many people could recite their own classification:  Me=ESFJ, my husband= ISFJ.

Kolb-learning stylesWith David Kolb’s Learning Style Model, I see myself :  CE/AE  What I like about this model is its two layered approach.  The outer circle Concrete, Reflective, Abstract and Active while the inner circle is Diverging, Assimilating, Converging and Accommodating.  So, while it’s easy to classify oneself into a category, it’s interesting to see that it can be fluid.  Sometimes I am active; other times accommodating.  Sometimes assimilating.  I’m sure others weave between the categories.

Murder Mystery… Solved through Experiential Learning

I’ve watched my share of TV crime shows from Mission Impossible to Prime Suspect to L&O (which I haven’t watched for at least five years).  There’s one thing good detectives have in common:  the ability to solve a crime by following the evidence.  Good detectives have experience, share the knowledge, analyze the situation, generalize, process and apply the evidence. Good detectives look for motive, access and opportunity.  Isn’t there a parallel between solving crimes and experiential learning?

I’m sure our classmates won’t apply crime solving to experiential learning!  

When the MKO is the student…

proofOur group in Adult Learning Theory has been culling together the complexities of Constructivism, Social Constructivism and Activity Theory.  It is fascinating to see Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) and More Knowledge Others (MKO) become clear.

Here’s an example: over the weekend, my husband and I saw the play, Proof, as part of our theater subscription.   The story, which began as a play by David Auburn, and later became a movie in 2005 with Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins, is about a brilliant mathematician whose life spiraled into madness before he died left his bereft (but also brilliant) daughter, to pick up the pieces.

The connection between the play and our topic on Constructivism and Social Constructivism is fascinating since the MKO is the student.  The play is about the “fragility of intellectual brilliance.”  Not to spoil the story, the More Knowledgeable Other becomes the daughter.  It is a fascinating twist in Vygotsky’s ZPD where the acquisition of knowledge comes from parents, teachers and peers.  Here, the daughter’s brilliance precedes her father.

See the play; it’s well done.

Taking time to learn something new

IMG_0457Some knitting projects take me a weekend; others several months. I have just finished this small blanket. It is made with various hues of deep blue, purple and gray with accents in black. I think it’s an analogy about adult learning and how it takes time to absorb new material.

Here’s where I’m going with this: Last week I was teaching a software application of a patient database. The workshops weren’t long, but the goal was to show existing employees the upgraded features of the software. While the feedback of the classes was very good, many said they had to practice with the new software to feel comfortable. This made me think of “cognitive load.” Some topics are very dense and take time to comprehend. Throwing a lot of new information within the span of a short class showing dozens of screens can be daunting.

I gently told the learners that the material itself is not new. They still have to enter demographics or clinical data, or progress notes. It’s just that the buttons or icons or menus have changed. I didn’t teach processes; just mechanics. In truth, I empathize with the learners. A new software interface takes time to comprehend even if their work doesn’t change.

So, whether a knitting project can take an afternoon or several months, sometimes after working on it a long time, that’s the best reward.