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.

Asking for Directions (or how much Cognitive Load?)

directionsGPS is a life saver.  It’s fast and efficient.  You can ask your GPS to take you the scenic route or the fast route via the major highways.  You can ask your GPS to speak in a woman’s voice or a man’s voice.  Some GPS devices have the option to speak in a British accent.

I recently heard a National Public Radio episode about people’s experience with GPS.  Callers chimed in with a whole host of stories.  One caller named his GPS, “Sweetheart.”  He would say, “OK Sweetheart, we’re going to Jessie’s apartment today.”  What a hoot.  Likewise, people cited their frustrations when sometimes things go awry.  The GPS would send people down side streets only to end up 3 miles extra from their destination. Plus, who hasn’t had the “Recalculating” message sound when you overshoot an exit.  It goes on excessively.

This whole episode comes to mind as I am on a business trip this week.  I’ve never been to this particular city, so of course, I had my GPS.  How handy.  It got me directly to the hotel and the site where I will be training all week.

So, here’s the rub.  Cognitive load.  Working memory and long term memory.  I found it difficult to get a handle on two lefts, straight through a light, then the next left.  I forgot it the moment I got to my destination.  “Consider the “rule of 7.” George Miller, an early researcher in cognitive load theory, who suggested that the largest number of discrete pieces of information the brain could manage was seven, plus or minus 2” as quoted by Jane Bozarth’s article “Nuts and Bolts: Brain Bandwidth – Cognitive Load Theory and Instructional Design, Learning Solutions, 2010.

I’ll never forget some sage advice a real estate broker once told me.  Learn two or three main streets in a town or city and know how they intersect or bisect.  That’s how you’ll learn a new town.

How true.  Main Street to King Street, Main Street to Prince Street and Main Street to Pleasant Street.  That’s downtown Northampton!

Aging, Learning and Singing!

quartetHave you heard about the recent movie, Quartet?  In a nutshell, it stars Maggie Smith.  The plot centers on an old age home full of retired classical musicians and opera singers.  It was originally a play by Ronald Harwood which we saw a few years ago at the Merrimack Repertory Theater.  The characters come together in an effort to sing for a gala of Verdi’s Rigoletto.

This example makes me think of the Adult Learning theory on “theories of the life course.”  As we all go through stages in life from childhood to adulthood, we approach life experiences and learning in different ways.  This is cited in Tennant and Pogson’s “Learning and Change in the Adult Years” (Ch 4). They refer to Eric Erickson (1959) who highlights the stages of life as a developmental theorist “who recognizes that a strong sense of identity leads naturally to a capacity for interdependence.” This charts the life course in terms of phases or stages: periods of stability, equilibrium, balance along with periods of instability and transition. (pg 88-89).  An alternate theory to life stages is highlighted by Neugarten (1976).  She states that circumstances within age brackets are not set in stone, but are flexible with social time, historical time and chronological time.  But it is Merriman (2007) “Learning in Adulthood,” that nicely sums up life stages: “it is how we learn from experiences, rather than how life experiences constrain or limit our learning.”

This parallels the plot of the movie: The main character, Jean, arrives at the old age home. She is the ex-wife of Reggie.  I would surmise, at that stage of life, they fought and argued. They were not in balance and very unstable.  Predictably, in the movie, the characters come together at the climax. They all get along for the annual gala.

While the movie highlights the foibles and frailties of aging, it’s also about the triumphant efforts to keep singing!